Archive for the 'Autobiography/biography' Category

Rat pie

October 6 2014

[The writer] could remember [...] how in March 1897, on a visit to some friends of his family’s towards the end of his eighth year, he had broken out into exclamations of dissentient surprise when one of the grown-up people present had begun to expatiate on the goodness, abundance, and variety of the fare on a Transatlantic voyage from which he had just landed. The listening child could not accept a statement that was irreconcilable with what he had heard, time and again, straight from the mouth of his own great-uncle Harry [old post], who was then still alive and who surely must be regarded as a greater authority, considering that he had been, not just a passenger on his own ship, but her captain. The child was never tired of hearing the old man telling how the mouldy taste of ship’s biscuit was welcomely relieved by the sharp taste of a weevil when the eater’s teeth happened to bite through one of the biscuit’s living occupants, and how, when captain and crew from time to time lost patience with their fellow-travellers the rats, they would entertain themselves by organizing a rat hunt which would bring them in tasty rat-pie to supplement for the next few days their dull normal fare of salt beef and plum duff. These, the child knew for certain, were the facts, so this talk of high feeding on board ship could be nothing but a mendaciously spun traveller’s yarn; and it was a revelation to him when the present traveller, just ashore from one of the Cunard or White Star liners of the day, explained good-humouredly, to the child who had been calling his veracity in question, that there had been a good deal of change in the conditions of sea-travel during the thirty-one years that had gone by since Captain Henry Toynbee’s retirement from the sea in A.D. 1866. Thanks to this convincing explanation of the discrepancy which had startled the child’s mind, it dawned upon it for the first time that human affairs were on the move, and that this movement might run so fast as to produce sensational changes within the span of a single lifetime.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The abomination of desolation

September 30 2014

An Englishman of the generation that has lived through the General War of 1914-18 may remind himself [...] of an incident which struck him, at the time, as painfully symbolic. As the War, in its ever-increasing intensity, made wider and wider demands upon the lives of the belligerent nations – like some great river that has burst its bounds in flood and is engulfing field after field and sweeping away village after village – a moment came in England when the offices of the Board of Education [1899-1944] in Whitehall were commandeered for the use of a new department of the War Office [1684-1964] which had been improvised in order to make an intensive study of trench warfare. The ejected Board of Education found asylum in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it survived on sufferance as though it had been some curious relic of a vanished past. And thus, for several years before the Armistice of the 11th November, 1918, an education for slaughter was being promoted, in the heart of our Western World, within the walls of a public building which had been erected in order to assist in promoting an education for life. As the writer of this Study was walking down Whitehall one day in the spring of that year 1918, he found himself repeating a passage from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) … then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the World to this time … And, except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved …” [Footnote: Matt. xxiv. 15 and 21-2.]

No reader can fail to understand that when the Ministry of Education of a great Western country is given over to the study of the art of war, the improvement in our Western military technique which is purchased at such a price is synonymous with the destruction of our Western Civilization.

The War Office building was completed in 1906. In 1964, the Admiralty, War Office, Air Ministry, Ministry of Aviation (not the same) and the earlier MOD were merged into the Ministry of Defence, which retained it, though not as its main headquarters. In 2013 it was decided to sell it on the open market. So first war expelled education (presumably from another building: which?), and now business is taking over from war.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

The exile of Thucydides

July 11 2014

A greater luminary in Toynbee’s “Pleiad” of captured or exiled historians (last post).

Thucydides (vivebat circa 454-399 B.C.) was a citizen of Athens who lived through the Twenty-Seven Years’ War of 431-404 B.C., and who was overtaken by the outbreak of the war in his early manhood. He thus belonged to a generation which was just old enough to have known the pre-war Hellenic World as an adult member of the pre-war society; and at the same time he lived long enough to see the denouement of the great catastrophe that brought the growth of the Hellenic Civilization to an end and set in motion the long and tragic movement of decline and fall. The definite breakdown of the Hellenic Civilization was, in fact, the challenge which the generation of Thucydides had to encounter and the experience through which they had to live; and Thucydides was fully alive to the significance of the catastrophe. “This war”, he says in the preface to the first part of his work, [footnote: Thucydides’ History of the Twenty-Seven Years’ War is in two parts, each introduced by a preface. [...] Part II is unfinished. (The work was apparently interrupted by the author’s death.) The narrative breaks on abruptly in the middle of the record of the twenty-first year of the war (411 B.C.) out of the total of twenty-seven years (431-404 B.C.) which the author intended to cover.] “was … the greatest upheaval ever experienced by Hellas and by a part of the non-Hellenic World (it would hardly be an exaggeration to say: by the Human Race)”; and he informs his readers in the same passage that, “in the belief that this war would eclipse all its predecessors in importance, he began to write as soon as war broke out”. In the Athens, however, of Thucydides’ day an able-bodied adult male citizen was constrained in peace-time, and a fortiori in war-time, to devote the best part of his time and energy to public service if the State made the demand; and we may suppose that, as soon as war broke out, this “practical” demand upon Thucydides became exacting. At any rate, in the eighth year of the war, we find Thucydides serving as one of the ten Athenian Generals: a board of public officers, elected annually for a twelve months’ term, who exercised the chief executive authority in the civil government in addition to their command over military operations.

It was in this position of “practical” responsibility, which Thucydides held in 424-423 B.C., that he suffered the break in his career which was the turning-point in his life-history. In the winter of 424-423 B.C., when Thucydides was in command of an Athenian naval squadron stationed at Thasos [north Aegean], he failed to prevent a Lacedaemonian expeditionary force commanded by Brasidas from capturing Amphipolis [Thracian mainland]. The lost fortress was a key-position, since it commanded the passage across the River Strymon on the land-route leading from Continental Greece towards the Dardanelles: the only route along which it was possible for the Peloponnesians to strike, with their superior land-power, at a vital point in the Athenian Empire, so long as Athens retained her command of the sea. The Athenian People sought relief for their feelings of chagrin and alarm at the news of this reverse by cashiering Thucydides and sentencing him to exile. And it was thanks to this personal mishap to Thucydides the soldier that Thucydides the historian at last obtained the opportunity to accomplish his life-work.

He never returned to Athens. Where did he live?

“I lived”, he writes in the preface to the second part of his work, “through the whole of [the Twenty-Seven Years’ War] [bracket in original], and I was not only of an age of discretion, but I took special pains to acquire accurate information. It was my fate to be exiled from my country for twenty years after my command at Amphipolis; and in this situation I was enabled to see something of both sides – the Peloponnesian as well as the Athenian – and to make a special study of the War at my leisure.”

Thanks to this fortunate misfortune, Thucydides was able to complete rather more than two-thirds of his projected work, though he seems to have died a premature death before he was out of his fifties. What is more, he has triumphantly achieved his ambition, declared in the preface to the first part of the work, to produce “an everlasting possession” – a permanent contribution to knowledge – “rather than an ephemeral tour de force”. In his own austere intellectual way, this cashiered Athenian officer has anticipated the injunction

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon Earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal;

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” [Footnote: Matt. vi. 19-21.]

The passing agony of one unhappy generation of Hellenes who dealt their own Hellas a mortal blow and knew that her blood was on them and on their children has been transmuted by Thucydides, in a great work of art, into an ageless and deathless human experience.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934


July 10 2014


Toynbee names a

Pleiad of historians – Thucydides and Xenophon and Polybius; Josephus and Ibn Khaldūn; Machiavelli and Clarendon and Ollivier – who [...] started life as soldiers or statesmen and [...] made the transit from one field of action to another in their own life-histories by returning as historians to a world from which they [had] previously been expelled as prisoners-of-war or deportees or exiles.

Émile Ollivier (1825-1913) is, he admits, its dimmest member – but why, even in a second edition, is he writing about a Pleiad? He even mentions “eight lives”. Somervell omits the section in his abridgement.

Ollivier started as a republican opposed to Napoléon III, but pushed the Emperor toward liberal reforms. He entered the cabinet and was prime minister when Napoléon fell.

His father had opposed the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe (1830-48) and was returned by Marseille to the Constituent Assembly which established the Second Republic (1848-51). He opposed the coup d’état of the head of state Louis-Napoléon, as he was then called, and was exiled for nearly a decade.

Émile Ollivier started to rise during the Republic. He re-entered politics, still a republican, but prepared to work with the Empire, in 1857 after a period in law.

He was one of the early Parisian champions of Wagner. His first wife, Blandine, was the daughter of Liszt and Marie d’Agoult (who wrote as Daniel Stern). She died in 1862. In 1869 he married Mlle Gravier.

Early in 1870 Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen revived his candidature for the Spanish throne. The French government instructed its ambassador to Prussia, Vincent, Count Benedetti, to demand from the king, Wilhelm I, that he withdraw it.

Ollivier was won over by the war party. On July 15 he declared in the Chamber that the Prussian government had issued a note, the Ems Telegram, announcing that his envoy had been rebuffed. He accepted the responsibility of the war, the Second War of the Spanish Succession, “with a light heart”, since it had been forced on France. But on August 9, with the news of its first disasters, his cabinet was driven from office. He sought refuge from the general rage in Italy.

He returned to France in 1873, but his political power was gone. During his retirement he employed himself in writing an apologia in the form of a history of L’Empire libéral in seventeen volumes (1895-1915). (Toynbee counts as far as the sixteenth, which appeared in 1912.)

Josephus, in his latter-day literary work, is in some sense pursuing his previous “practical” activities in a new medium. And this fault is still more conspicuously apparent in the literary work of the French member of our Pleiad: Émile Ollivier.

Ollivier is not without excuse for his frailty, for his personal identification with the disaster that overtook his country in his day was much more intimate, and much more serious, than Thucydides’ identification with the fall of Athens or Josephus’s with the fall of Jewry. Ollivier was a Frenchman who lived through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. For France, this war, which brought to an end a French political and military hegemony of two centuries’ standing on the European Continent, was not only a supreme national catastrophe; it was also a supreme national humiliation, since the war was lost by no honourable defeat but by a lamentable débâcle. And for Ollivier this tragic experience of France was a personal tragedy of equal magnitude; for, at the moment when the disaster occurred, Ollivier occupied in France the principal position of political responsibility next to the Emperor Napoleon III himself. While the Emperor was saved from the fury of the French people by falling into the enemy’s hands, his minister had to fly the country. Ollivier took refuge in Italy, and when he ventured to return to France in 1873 his life was in ruins. Born in 1825, engaged in politics from 1848 to 1870, and virtually Prime Minister in the Imperial Government during the fatal days between the end of 1869 and the 9th August, 1870, Ollivier now found himself, at the age of forty-eight, a scapegoat in the wilderness, with all the transgressions of the Second Empire heaped upon his devoted head. [Footnote: Ollivier applies the simile of the scapegoat to himself in L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, p. 30.]

Ollivier’s retort to the outrageous Fortune which had felled his country and himself by the same terrific blow was to write, on the grand scale, a history of the whole unhappy chapter in French history in which he had played his own unhappy part. The prologue to the drama, as he presents it in L’Empire Libéral, [footnote: L’Empire Libéral: Études, Récits, Souvenirs, par Émile Ollivier (Paris 1895-1912, Garnier Frères, 16 volumes] begins with the morrow of the peace-settlement of 1815; the curtain descends upon the débâcle of 1870 after Ollivier’s fall from office on the 9th August of that year and his subsequent abortive private mission to Italy. The first volume was published in 1895, a quarter of a century after the catastrophe, when the author himself was already seventy years old; [footnote] and thereafter volume followed volume year by year until the sixteenth and last volume was published in 1912, when the author was eighty-seven and when the greater war of 1914-18, which was to reverse the result of the war of 1870-1, was only two years ahead in the future. [Footnote: The writer of this Study, who was an undergraduate at Oxford at the time when the last volumes of L’Empire Libéral were appearing, can well remember the interest which their publication aroused.] In thus transferring to historiography the energies that had been expelled from the field of politics twenty-five years earlier, Ollivier was not achieving a spiritual catharsis and was not pursuing the path of “etherialization”. To parody a notorious maxim of his Prussian enemies, [footnote: “War is only a continuation of State policy by other means” (Clausewitz, General Karl von: On War. Translated by Colonel J. J. Graham from the third German edition (London 1893, Trübner), p. vii).] he was rather taking up the historian’s pen in order to pursue the politician’s aims by the best alternative means that still remained at his disposal. The driving force that impels him to write and write from his seventy-first to his eighty-eighth year is a burning desire to vindicate France and to vindicate Ollivier.

Second footnote in that paragraph:

The final and effective decision to write seems to have been taken by Ollivier as a consequence of Bismarck’s outright avowal that he [Bismarck] had deliberately precipitated the war by tampering with the text of the famous “Ems Telegram”. This outright avowal was not made until 1892, after Bismarck’s dismissal from the Chancellorship of the German Reich by the Emperor William II. Ollivier appears to have been stirred by this revelation in two ways. He was elated to see the responsibility for the outbreak of the war transferred from the shoulders of France to the shoulders of Germany by so conclusive an authority as Bismarck himself; and he was outraged to find that Bismarck’s confession was not being taken by public opinion as an exoneration of Ollivier for his own part in those transactions. L’Empire Libéral seems to have been committed to writing under this twofold stimulus. The context in which Ollivier gives his account of Bismarck’s avowal is illuminating. (See L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, pp. 24-31.)

The dispatch was an internal message from the Prussian King’s holiday site to Bismarck in Berlin, reporting demands made by Benedetti; it was Bismarck’s released statement to the press that became known as Ems Telegram.

Back to main text:

The first of these two motives is proclaimed at the beginning of the book:

“À la veille de disparaître de ce monde, je veux donner une dernière preuve de dévouement à la patrie bien aimée à laquelle j’ai consacré toutes mes pensées. Je veux la laver devant la posterité de la tache d’avoir déchaîné parmi les hommes la misère, la défiance, la haine, la barbaric Je veux démontrer qu’en 1870 elle n’a pas été plus agressive qu’elle ne l’avait été en 1792 et en 1806; qu’alors comme autrefois elle a défendu son indépendance, non attenté à celle d’autrui. Laissant aux contempteurs de son droit les gémissements dont depuis tant d’années ils affaiblissent son courage, je lui tends la coupe où l’on boit le cordial qui rend la foi, la force, l’espérance. Si elle l’accepte, tant mieux pour elle!” [Footnote: Ollivier, E. O.: L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, pp. 32-3.]

The patriotic motive, here confessed, is plain to read; but the personal motive, which Ollivier is at pains to deny, is equally unmistakable. It is revealed in the author’s chagrin that Bismarck’s avowal of his responsibility for precipitating the war has not served to vindicate his own – Ollivier’s – reputation. [Footnote: Ollivier, op. cit., vol. i, p. 30.] It is revealed in the ostentation with which he abstains from vindicating himself (for “on s’excuse même en renonçant aux excuses”). Above all, it is revealed in his grand finale, which is not the débâcle at Sedan and is not the fall of Metz and is not the fall of Paris and is not the signature of the Peace of Frankfurt, but is – at the end of sixteen volumes – the fall of the Ministère Ollivier!

Bad Ems

Benedetti and Wilhelm I at Ems; Ernst Engelberg, Bismarck, Akademie-Verlag Berlin, 1985 via Wikimedia Commons, no more information given

A second-rate practitioner of a dangerous trade (old post).

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

London in the 1890s

April 7 2014

I used to watch, after breakfast, to see Mr Hale, the solicitor who lived in the opposite house across the street, ride off to his office on the horse that his groom had brought to the door. I used to linger by the cab-ranks to look at the horses drinking from the troughs and the sparrows scuffling with each other for the bran that had been spilled from the horses’ nosebags.

He is living at 12 Upper Westbourne Terrace.

A life in London

The arc light.

Cities on the Move, OUP, 1970

War Cloister

March 18 2014

Winchester College War Cloister, memorial to the Wykehamist dead of the two World Wars:

War Cloister, Winchester 2

War Cloister, Winchester

Flickr credit, first image: Alwyn Ladell. Credit, second image: hantsphere.

Architect: Sir Herbert Baker. Dedicated 1924 and 1948. West side has bronze bust of Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding.

The school also has a South Africa Gate, built 1902, commemorating Wykehamists who died in the Boer War (Toynbee was at Winchester September 1902, start of the first academic year after the war’s end, to summer 1907), and a memorial called Crimea in the entry chamber to Chapel, bearing the names of its alumni who died at the siege of Sevastopol.

The Spires of Oxford

March 17 2014

Another bad poem that good people enjoyed, and took to the trenches, appeared in Winifred LettsThe Spires of Oxford, and Other Poems, New York, EP Dutton, 1917 and in A Treasury of War Poetry, British and American Poems of the World War, 1914-1917, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1917. The latter was extended in a second volume to 1919. What were the English editions?

WM, or Winifred Mary, Letts (1882-1972) was English-born, but lived in Ireland. She wrote other popular poems, including one called The Deserter, which was in her The Spires of Oxford, but not the Treasury. Stanford set some of them.

The Oxford poem might (even in its modesty) have had a meaning for Toynbee, who was an Oxford don when the War began and felt the guilt of a survivor (and was probably a draft dodger on top of it). To the end of his life he kept pictures on his mantlepiece of his friends who had died, and for his Ad Portas speech at his old school, Winchester College, in 1974, his last public appearance, he paid homage to them in Latin. (The phrase “dreaming spires” is from Matthew Arnold’s Thyrsis.)

“I saw the spires of Oxford
As I was passing by,
The gray spires of Oxford
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Oxford men
Who went abroad to die.

The years go fast in Oxford,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

They left the peaceful river,
The cricket-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Oxford,
To seek a bloody sod –
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Oxford town.”

Rosalind Murray bibliography

February 14 2014

Toynbee’s first wife, from 1913 to 1946. Cv (page here).


The Leading Note, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1910

Moonseed, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1911

Unstable Ways, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1914

The Happy Tree, Chatto and Windus, 1926

Hard Liberty, Chatto and Windus, 1929


On the Greeks

The Greeks, Preface by Gilbert Murray, A&C Black, 1931


Religious tracts after conversion to Catholicism

The Good Pagan’s Failure, Longmans, Green & Co, 1939

Time and the Timeless, Centenary Press, 1942

The Life of Faith, Centenary Press, 1943

The Forsaken Fountain, Hollis and Carter, 1948

The Further Journey: In My End Is My Beginning, Harvill Press, 1953


She had a small reputation as a novelist before 1920.

EM Forster to Malcolm Darling, July 29 1911: “The best novels I have come across in the past year are Rosalind Murray’s The Leading Note [...] and Wedgwoods Shadow of a Titan [...].”

Virginia Woolf, diary, November 12 1917: “I went to Mudies, & got The Leading Note, in order examine into R.T. more closely [...]. I came home with my book, which does not seem a very masterly performance after Turgenev, I suppose [The Leading Note is about a Russian refugee]; but if you dont get your touches in the right place the method is apt to be sketchy & empty.” Both from html sources.

McNeill: “Her career as an apologist resembled her career as a novelist in the sense that The Good Pagan’s Failure attracted much more attention than what followed.” But he regards The Happy Tree as her best novel.

UK publishing dates.

Differences between Oxford and Cambridge

February 8 2014

I have corrected and added to yesterday’s post on Atlas and Antaeus.

Alan Macfarlane on Oxford and Cambridge; beware his dates; he is at the back of King’s College and Clare:

Toynbee’s paternal ancestors were east of England farmers, but he was an Oxford man who spent most of his working life outside a university. He was, however, invited in 1947 to become Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge in succession to GN Clark. See McNeill, pages 208-10 on his reasons for declining. The chair was taken by JRM Butler instead.

Silly repartee:

Sarasota 1965

January 30 2014

Part of David of Sarasota, a silly undated film sponsored by the Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce, produced by LeRoy Crooks. Via Florida Memory, an initiative of State Archives of Florida. The 14-minute version has a clip of Toynbee, a charter faculty member of New College and in residence from December 20 (probably) 1964 until April 8 1965.

The College, an initiative of local citizens led by the Chamber of Commerce, had been founded in 1960. Toynbee’s appointment was announced October 5 1963 (St Petersburg Times, October 6, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 6). The College opened its doors to students in the fall of 1964.

The trustees had bought the former Charles Edward Ringling estate on Sarasota Bay and an area of airport land for the campus and were bequeathed the former home of Ellen and Ralph Caples.

Charles Ringling (1863-1926) of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus was the older brother of John Nicholas Ringling (1866-1936). The Ringling Brothers Circus acquired Barnum and Bailey in 1907.

Near the campus is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, John Ringling’s gift to Florida, “the museum the circus built”, with its bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David; on its property are the Museum of the Circus and the Asolo Repertory Theater, whose late eighteenth-century interior was shipped from Asolo, near Venice, in 1949.

We are shown the Ringling complex, and the Players Community Theater, Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Concert Band, Sarasota High School and its Sailor Circus, Emmett Kelly, Ben Stahl, Thornton Outes, Syd SolomonAl BuellJohn D McDonaldIrving Vendig, beach life and sport, Florida Ballet Art School and Hilton Leech Gallery.

Material from Toynbee’s New College lectures found its way into Change and Habit. From 1955 to 1967, Toynbee exploited the possibilities of the American lecture circuit. “Each time he used his host institutions as a base from which to travel far and wide in pursuit of additional lecture fees.” (McNeill) 

Tempting as it would be to call this post Bread from circuses, New College was not a Ringling foundation (though the Ringling School of Art was).

The lectures – one was on Food and Population – are likely to have been in the usual mould. Did these recycled talks justify the fees? And as McNeill asks, were his side-trips fair on his hosts, who were paying to have him on their campus?

Florida Memory is wrong in dating the film to “ca. 1950s”. It is 1965, though, admittedly, most of the time Sarasota looks as if it is stuck in a more than ordinarily complete southern time-warp.

Toynbee to Columba Cary-Elwes, February 24:

The students here (all 100 of them, all straight of out high school) are of a very high level, and are very much worth trying to help, but we don’t like this part of Florida. After Denver, where we were very happy, it seems un-genuine.

He had taught at the University of Denver in the last quarter of 1964. April 5:

Though the students at New College are good, in every sense, we shall not be sorry to leave Sarasota: you have here the worst side of American life: frivolity combined with militant conservatism.

Sunday April 11 1965 New College news release to Bradenton Herald (extracts):

“His three months here included:

“Seven major lectures to New College students and guests.

“Appearances on campuses in South Carolina, Tennessee, Gainesville and Miami, Florida [on March 4 he had spoken on The Role of the Generalist in the University Stadium, University of Florida, Gainesville].

“Weekly seminars with students.

“‘Bull Sessions’ with students after each of his formal lectures.

“Appearance with other world figures at the ‘Pacem in Terris’ conference in New York to discuss ways to achieve world peace.

“Broadcasts and telecasts on every major television and radio network at the time of the death of Sir Winston Churchill.

“Special appearance on the Today Show on the NBC network.

“Selected guest appearances, numerous dinners and social occasions.

“Completion of the manuscript for a new book [Hannibal’s Legacy].

“Aside from his public appearances and rigorous class and work schedule, Dr. Toynbee lived quietly with his wife in a home in the Uplands. They were often seen walking in the neighbourhood and the sight of the historian crossing the campus from his home to College Hall was a familiar one.

“Student recollections of Dr. Toynbee will always be of a man of great gentleness, unfailing kindness, simplicity in his approach to even great matters, and directness in his reply to even the most complex questions.”

He had been honest enough to share something of the feeling about Florida that he had expressed to Columba:

“Interesting was his comment that life in Florida somehow seems to be ‘unreal’. He explained that so many people now in Florida had formed their lives in different communities, had lived their working days elsewhere, and had then moved here attempting to begin another life, often a different way of living.”

It was becoming a state of migrants. Low taxes, air conditioning and the Interstate highway system had brought retirees from the Northeast, Midwest and Canada. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 produced a wave of Cuban immigration. There were Haitian and other Caribbean and Central and South American migrants. Since the early twentieth century much of the old African American population had been migrating to the north.

The black population of Florida had been 44 percent at the beginning of the century. It was still 16.5 percent, and Sarasota was presumably not a statistical exception, but you don’t see a single black face in the fourteen minutes of David of Sarasota. De facto apartheid will have added to the feeling of unreality. (Stanley K Smith, Florida Population Growth: Past, Present and Future, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida, Gainesville, June 2005)

We have met Toynbee at that first, 1965 Pacem in Terris conference already: New York 1965: Ideology and Intervention (old post). If the audio links there and in Santa Barbara 1967, and the age of planning aren’t working, I hope to restore them.

To Columba, February 24:

I got back late last night from the Pacem in Terris Convocation (I was one of the speakers yesterday morning, [footnote: A.J.T.’s speech was the basis of “Change – Minus Bloodshed,” published in Rotarian 106, no. 6 (June 1965): 40-41.] with Senator Fulbright in the chair). The best of the chairmen was Barbara Ward.

According to the Online Archive of California, the event had ended on February 20. Fulbright opposed the Vietnam policy of the Johnson administration.

My main impression was that Pope John’s love and concern for his fellow human beings has broken through all barriers. Communists, Asians, Africans all spoke about him with affection and gratitude, and I am sure they were being sincere. This is one of those timely acts that cannot be undone. Pope John has “made history”, I should say, in the deepest sense.

He is referring to Pacem in Terris, the encyclical John issued on April 11 1963, a few weeks before he died. It made history because it was explicitly addressed not only to Catholics, but to “all men of good will”.

My second impression is that the American people are committing, pretty heavily, the sin of pride, and are thereby drawing on themselves the moral disapproval of the rest of the world. They are refusing to admit that they may have made a mistake [in Vietnam], that mistakes have to be paid for, and that America cannot be – and ought not to be – always 100 per cent victorious. The choice before them, and this in the near future, is either a compromise over Vietnam or MacNamara’s 1 to 7 million American casualties [where does he get that from?], but they do not seem to be facing the choice. Certainly they are not in our “blood and tears” mood of June, 1940. This is very disturbing in a nation which has mankind’s fate in its hands.

News release, op cit:

“Thursday the college officially bade the Toynbees farewell at a tea in their honor in College Hall. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Music Room and many of the College family found it difficult to move away from the historian after they had shaken his hand, reluctant to say goodby [sic] to this British couple who had been such a part of their lives.”

Reminiscences of his time there are in Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 23 1975. He had a high opinion of the Florida students. He believed that the “bull sessions” and seminars were of more value to them than the lectures.

Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous

The Kamakura shogunate

November 28 2013

In Japan the period 935-1185 saw a progressive transfer of power and wealth from the exotic Imperial Court at Kyoto to provincial barons, and a concomitant lapse from domestic peace into civil disorder. The peace of the capital itself was disturbed more and more frequently and rudely by incursions of the armed forces of adjacent Buddhist monasteries. A civil war between two provincial families of Imperial descent, the Taira and the Minamoto, culminated in 1185 in the victory of Yoritomo Minamoto and his establishment of an effective dictatorship over the whole of Japan from a base at Kamakura – just beyond the southwestern extremity of the Kanto, the biggest of the rare plains on the main island, Honshu. [An hour out of Tokyo by train.] The Imperial Court and its sophisticated culture were allowed to survive at Kyoto, but the Kyoto Government was deprived of effective power. De facto, the Imperial Government at Kyoto had been controlled by regents belonging to the Fujiwara family since at least as early as 858, and, after Yoritomo Minamoto’s death in 1199, the regency for the Bakufu (military government) of the Shogun (Commander-in-Chief) at Kamakura was acquired in 1203 by the Hojo family, who stayed in the saddle till 1333 and maintained effectively, till about 1284, the regime that Yoritomo Minamoto had instituted.

Japan had never before been so efficiently governed as she was from 1185 to 1284, and the gross national product increased, though there was also an increase in the inequality of its distribution. Japan was fortunate in having a strong government during this century; for the Mongols invaded Japan in 1274, and again in 1281, after the completion of their conquest of the Sung Empire in 1279. On both occasions Japanese valour was assisted by storms that made havoc of the invaders’ ships. In 1274 the Mongols’ expeditionary force was small, and it broke off its attack after only one day’s fighting. In 1281 the invading force was on a large scale, and the attack was kept up for two months [before it was repulsed].

The military government of Kamakura was more in tune than the civil government at Kyoto with the cultural and social conditions of twelfth-century and thirteenth-century Japan. Yoritomo Minamoto and the Hojo regents who carried on his regime at Kamakura had contemporaries who played a corresponding role in the field of religion. The earliest forms of Mahayana Buddhism that were introduced into Japan via China and Korea were abstruse in their metaphysics – though some monasteries of these sects became crudely militaristic in their practice on Japanese soil. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Buddhism was presented to the Japanese people in simplified forms in which it was comprehensible and congenial to wider circles. A sect of Zen (Ch’an, Dhyana) Buddhism was introduced into Kamakura in 1191. The Zen spiritual technique of achieving sudden enlightenment through severely disciplined meditation was attractive to the soldiers [samurai].

Zen was the Japanese variant, introduced under the Kamakura shogunate, of Chán, a Chinese school of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasised dhyana, concentrated meditation.

Honen (1135-1212) [Jōdo-shū school] and Shinran (1173-1262) [Jōdo Shinshū school] appealed to the masses by concentrating on the repetition of the name of the bodhisattva Amida (Amitabha) as a talisman for securing admission, after death, to the “Pure Land”, Amida’s paradise.


Nichiren (1222-82) concentrated on chanting the praise of the Lotus Sutra. He was more akin to the ninth-century-B.C. Israelite prophets Elijah and Elisha than to any traditional Buddhist sage. Nichiren combated all other Buddhist sects, intervened actively in politics, got into trouble with the Bakufu, but won popularity by preaching resistance to the Mongols. Each of these twelfth-century and thirteenth-century Japanese simplified forms of Buddhism still had numerous adherents in the 1970s.

Toynbee himself, at the end of his life, knew and recorded a dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda.

Ikeda in his youth had joined a lay organisation founded in 1930 which propagated Nichiren Buddhism among the urban rootless called Soka Gakkai. In 1960 he became its President. In 1975 he set up Soka Gakkai International as an umbrella organisation for Soka Gakkai-affiliated groups around the world. After Toynbee’s death, the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood cut off relations with Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International and excommunicated Ikeda.

Polly Toynbee on Ikeda.

Buddha Daibutsu, Kamakura

Mid-thirteenth century bronze Amida Buddha (a giant Buddha or Daibutsu) at the Jōdo-shū Kōtoku-in temple, Kamakura

Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous

The horror of the Hannibalic war

November 20 2013

The Hannibalic war in Italy was, very probably, the most terrible war that there has ever been, not excepting the recent war in Europe. The horror of that war haunted later generations, and its mere memory made oblivion seem a desirable release from an intolerable world.

Nil igitur mors est adnos neque pertinet hilum,
quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur.
et velut anteacto nil tempore sensimus aegri,
ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis,
omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu
horrida contremuere sub altis aetheris oris,
in dubioque fuere utrorum ad regna cadendum
omnibus humanis esset terraque marique,
sic, ubi non erimus, cum corporis atque animai
discidium fuerit quibus e sumus uniter apti,
scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum,
accidere omnino poterit sensumque movere,
non si terra mari miscebitur et mare caelo.

That is a passage of Lucretius (iii. 830-842) which follows upon an elaborate argument to prove that death destroys personality and that the soul is not immortal. Here is an attempt at a translation:

“So death is nothing to us and matters nothing to us, since we have proved that the soul is not immortal. And as in time past we felt no ill, when the Phoenicians were pouring in to battle on every front, when the world rocked with the shock and tumult of war and shivered from centre to firmament, when all mankind on sea and land must fall under the victor’s empire and victory was in doubt – so, when we have ceased to be, when body and soul, whose union is our being, have been parted, then nothing can touch us – we shall not be – and nothing can make us feel, no, not if earth is confounded with sea and sea with heaven.”

Lucretius wrote that about a hundred and fifty years after Hannibal evacuated Italy, but the horror is still vivid in his mind, and his poetry arouses it in our minds as we listen. The writer will never forget how those lines kept running in his head during the spring of 1918.

But the victors suffered with the vanquished in the common ruin of civilization. The whole Mediterranean world, and the devastated area in Italy most of all, was shaken by the economic and social revolutions which the Roman wars brought in their train. The proletariat was oppressed to such a degree that the unity of society was permanently destroyed and Greek civilization, after being threatened with a violent extinction by Bolshevik outbreaks – the slave wars in Sicily, the insurrection of Aristonikos and the massacres of Mithradates in Anatolia, the outbreaks of Spartakos and Catilina in Italy – was eventually supplanted by a rival civilization of the proletariat – the Christian Church.

From synoikismos to dissolution (old post).

From chapter called History contributed by Toynbee to RW Livingstone, editor, The Legacy of Greece, Essays by Gilbert Murray, W. R. Inge, J. Burnet, Sir T. L. Heath, D’Arcy W. Thompson, Charles Singer, R. W. Livingstone, A. Toynbee, A. E. Zimmern, Percy Gardner, Sir Reginald Blomfield, OUP (Oxford at the Clarendon Press), 1921

Running into the sea

September 23 2013

In A.D. 1952 the writer’s earliest surviving memory was a recollection of having taken and carried out, at the age of two, on the beach at Abersoch in Wales, a decision to run into the sea in order to find out what would happen. What did happen is that his nurse ran in after him, pulled him out, and, in the act, sprained her ankle. There was no benevolently officious nurse to pull him back from the intellectual plunge that he made, six years after that, into the ocean of History.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

Toynbee in Argentina

August 20 2013

With wife Veronica (woman in pale coat), September 14 1966. Via, an archive of television and cinema footage. No sound.

“En un avión de la empresa Aerolíneas Argentinas arriba al Aeropuerto Internacional de Ezeiza, el filosofo e historiador ingles, Profesor Arnold Joseph Toynbee junto a su esposa; tras descender del avión es recibido por un grupo de personas.”

There had been a military coup in June. The first of the three dictators of the so-called Revolución Argentina was in power.

Argentina endured five periods of military rule between 1930 and 1983, of which the last was the worst: 1930 (first coup) to ’32, ’43 to ’46, ’55 to ’58, ’66 to ’73 (Revolución Argentina), ’76 to ’83 (Dirty War). The Falklands War with Britain took place during the last.

The Brazilians’ nationalism is ironic and light-hearted; the Argentinians’ nationalism is romantic and intense.

Toynbee says in Between Maule and Amazon that he was in Córdoba on September 28 1966 when (not his words) nineteen young, armed Argentine nationalists calling themselves Condors hijacked an Aerolíneas Argentinas DC4 during an internal flight and landed on Stanley Racecourse in the Falklands/Malvinas to plant the flag there.

It does not seem to have occurred to him that the new junta might have welcomed or even staged the event. The organiser, Dardo Cabo, spent a short time in prison, moved from right to left, and was executed during the Dirty War. I am writing this while Spain is agitating about Gibraltar.

A light plane piloted by a Miguel Fitzgerald had touched down on the racecourse in 1964. In October 1968 a group of Argentine naval special forces conducted covert landings from a submarine. The leader of the team, Juan Jose Lombardo, later, as Chief of Naval Operations, planned the 1982 invasion. In November 1968, Fitzgerald tried to repeat his landing and failed. Fitzgerald died in Buenos Aires in 2010. Lombardo is still alive.

On December 21 1966 Toynbee hand-delivered Between Maule and Amazon to OUP in London. The Maule had been the southern frontier of the Inca Empire. It runs east to west a little more than halfway down Chile.

Most of the book describes travels in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile in 1966. There are also impressions of places beyond the Amazon: Mexico in 1953, Guatemala in 1958, Puerto Rico in 1962, Venezuela in 1963. It does not contain detailed itineraries. I will reconstruct what I can and put the details on the page here called Itinerary. Nothing is said about previous publication, but at least part of the content had been syndicated by the Observer Foreign News Service.


The difilm archive lists other clips which can’t be seen online. All sin sonido, silent. In date order and adding links, they are, with times:

Buenos Aires, August 19 (which should surely be September), 1:07: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, visita el Museo Histórico Nacional y recorre las instalaciones acompañado por su director, el capitán de navío (re) Humberto F. Burzio, seguidamente el profesor Toynbee firma un libro de visitante ilustre.”

Córdoba, October 6, 4:49: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, visita la Provincia de Córdoba. Descripción del film: 1. El profesor Toynbee asiste a una recepción ofrecida por autoridades de la fábrica de automóviles Industrias Kaiser Argentina (I.K.A.). 2. El profesor Toynbee visita la Catedral de Córdoba y realiza una recorrida por sus instalaciones. 3. El profesor Toynbee se reúne probablemente con el Gobernador de Córdoba. 4. El profesor Toynbee realiza una conferencia de prensa para los medios de esa provincia. 5. El profesor Toynbee se reúne con el Arzobispo de Córdoba, Raúl Francisco Primatesta. 6. El profesor Toynbee realiza una disertación en teatro.”

Córdoba, October 6, 0:31: “El filósofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, visita la fabrica de automóviles de la empresa Industrias Kaiser Argentina (I.K.A.) y recorre las instalaciones.”

Buenos Aires, October 9, 0:24: “En el Consejo Deliberante se lleva a cabo el 4° Congreso Internacional de Historia de América en la Academia Nacional de la Historia, asiste el Presidente de la Comisión Académica Organizadora, doctor Ernesto J. Fitte, y el Presidente del Congreso, doctor Ricardo Zorraquin Becu, entre otros; y se ve una disertación del filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee.”

Buenos Aires?, 1966 (no exact date), 0:19: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, realiza una disertación en la Universidad Católica Argentina, se encuentra a su lado el señor Emilio Stebanovich, quien hace de traductor.” Which campus not stated.

Buenos Aires, 1966 (no exact date), 0:20: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, realiza una disertación en la escuela superior de guerra.”

Between Maule and Amazon, OUP, 1967

The long ripening

August 9 2013

I quote this every few years because it must be the most concise evocation of a certain mood of late Victorian and Edwardian England, and perhaps of a section of Austria-Hungary, in literature. He does not seem to have known the passage, but it expresses Toynbee’s retrospective view of the world in which he grew up.

“We too had many pretty toys when young:
A law indifferent to blame or praise,
To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong
Melt down, as it were wax in the sun’s rays;
Public opinion ripening for so long
We thought it would outlive all future days.
O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.

“All teeth were drawn, all ancient tricks unlearned,
And a great army but a showy thing;
What matter that no cannon had been turned
Into a ploughshare? Parliament and king
Thought that unless a little powder burned
The trumpeters might burst with trumpeting
And yet it lack all glory; and perchance
The guardsmen’s drowsy chargers would not prance.”


Yeats, from Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.

The non-book of 1963

July 2 2013

Jessica Mitford:

“In later years Philip [Toynbee] and his father came to have a sort of arm’s-length love for each other, although their many disagreements of outlook and philosophy persisted. They chose an unfortunate vehicle for sorting out their respective views: a book called Comparing Notes: A Dialogue Across the Generations [actually A Dialogue across a Generation], published in 1963 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

“What may have been a high point in the father/son relationship surely marks a nadir in English publishing. The 155 pages of tape-recorded exchanges between the two results in the non-book of the year. One can sense the squirming, the shifting in the chairs, the effort to relax as the tape rolls forward recording the Wise Sayings of normally stiff-upper-lipped father and son. The reader suffers along with the participants – and learns almost nothing about the Toynbees as a family; Mummy isn’t even mentioned.

“Philip leads off:

‘I thought we might approach what is going to be a rather difficult job by putting the interview under various headings.’

Arnold: ‘Yes, I think that that’s a good way to start.’

PT: ‘Right, well, I suppose the most fundamental question anyone could ask anyone else is, do you believe in God?’

“They give God a longish whirl – Indian and Chinese beliefs, Christians, Jews, Moslems, agnostics, Roman Catholics and so it goes.

“By page 34, Philip is listing the Seven Deadly Sins – but he has forgotten one.

AT: ‘You’ve missed out Pride.’

[They discuss Pride at some length. Then:] [bracket in Mitford]

PT: ‘Shall we go on with the Deadly Sins?’

AT: ‘Yes.’

PT: ‘Now Sloth. That would seem to be a slightly odd one, because it seems a rather innocent failing …’

“The publisher, perhaps out of Sloth, did no editing of the tapes, supplied no useful footnotes. At the very beginning of the conversation Arnold Toynbee says:

‘My parents were fairly liberal-minded, but we lived with an old great-uncle of mine whom you know all about.’

PT: ‘Uncle Harry?’

AT: ‘Yes, Uncle Harry …’

“Uncle H. appears elsewhere in the text, but nowhere is he further identified; nor are Arnold’s liberal-minded parents. The effect is like being at one of those smart cocktail parties where there are no introductions, it being assumed that Everybody who is Anybody will know the other guests.”


Jessica Mitford, Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee, Heinemann, 1984.

The book has a few redeeming lines. I have quoted it here once or twice. I mention three other published dialogues in the bibliography here:

Surviving the Future, OUP, 1971, with Professor Kei Wakaizumi of Kyoto Sangyo University

Toynbee on Toynbee, A Conversation between Arnold J Toynbee and GR Urban, New York, OUP, 1974

With Daisaku Ikeda; Richard L Gage, editor; Choose Life, A Dialogue, OUP, 1976, posthumous

Wakaizumi and Urban are much better. Even the Ikeda dialogue is not as bad as the Philip, though Polly Toynbee has called it the book among her grandfather’s works “most kindly left forgotten”.

A better book of 1963 was Mitford’s own The American Way of Death.

A rare fascinator

Baedeker, Britannica and others

June 23 2013

Toynbee acknowledged a debt to German atlases in writing his survey of Europe in the early months of the First World War. In addition to maps,

I am also indebted to books. Among works of reference I would single out two of Baedeker’s handbooks, the eleventh edition of Austria-Hungary (1911) and Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1905), but in this case [both cases?] the German source yields precedence to the Encyclopædia Britannica (eleventh edition, published in 1911), which has proved the most indispensable of all my guides. My extracts from the official census returns of various states are nearly all derived through this channel, [footnote: The 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia takes its Austro-Hungarian statistics from the census of 1900: I might have rectified them by the more recent returns of 1910, but I have deliberately refrained from doing so. The figures of 1910 of course represent the present absolute totals of the various populations more accurately than those of 1900, but relative rather than absolute quantities are valuable for my purpose, and in this respect the figures of 1900 are undoubtedly more accurate than those of 1910. In 1900 the “official” proportions were doubtless already distorted by the Hungarian census-officials, and doubtless the real proportions have slightly shifted in the meanwhile, but both these margins of error are insignificant compared with the gross perversions of truth perpetrated by Hungarian officialdom in 1910. So rapidly is a nation demoralised when once it succumbs to chauvinism.] and I have made especially diligent use of the excellently arranged articles on “Austria-Hungary” and “Hungary.”

For what I have written on Hungary I am likewise in debt to the illuminating study on Hungary in the Eighteenth Century, [footnote: Published by the Cambridge University Press.] by Professor Marczali, the Magyar historian, but above all to the work of Dr. Seton-Watson. So far as I deal with his subjects, my information is taken at second hand: I have learnt all I know about “Magyarisation” from his Racial Problems in Hungary, and all I know about modern Croatia from his Southern Slavs. I can do no better than refer the reader to these two books for the substantiation of my indictment against the Magyar nation. The War and Democracy, written in collaboration by Messrs. Seton-Watson, Dover Wilson, Zimmern and Greenwood, was only published after the relevant part of my own book was already in proof, and I have not yet had leisure to read it. Yet though I have been unable to borrow from the book itself, I owe an incalculable debt to another of its authors besides Dr. Seton-Watson. I have had the good fortune to be Mr. Zimmern’s pupil.

So much for maps and books: they cannot compare with friends. Without the help of my mother and my wife, this book would never have grown ripe for publication, and I have to thank my wife’s father, Professor Gilbert Murray, Mr. A. D. Lindsay and Mr. H. W. C. Davis of Balliol College, and Mr. R. W. Chapman of the Clarendon Press, all of whom have read the book in whole or part either in manuscript or in proof. Their advice has enabled me to raise the standard of my work in every respect. When the critics tear my final draft in pieces, I shall realise how my first draft would have fared, had it been exposed naked to their claws. Last but not least, I must express my gratitude to my publishers, Messrs. J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., for their unfailing kindness, especially for bearing with my delays and reproducing my maps.

ARNOLD TOYNBEE. February 1915.

No authorship is stated for the maps.

He cites the 1914 edition of Konstantinopel und Kleinasien in The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922.

Marczali’s book contains an introductory essay on earlier Hungarian history by Harold Temperley, to whose The Non-Arab Territories of the Ottoman Empire since the Armistice of the 30th October, 1918, OUP, 1924 Toynbee would later contribute.

Toynbee wasn’t the only historian to have acknowledged a debt to the eleventh edition of the Britannica. HG Wells admitted that swathes of his Outline of History relied on it. Many of the original articles in Wikipedia were imported from it.

Paget Toynbee rebuked his nephew in writing for not differentiating his name from that of the other Arnold Toynbee, Paget’s late brother, on the title page of his first book. Given the fame of the earlier Arnold Toynbee and Arnold J Toynbee’s obscurity in 1915, the rebuke seems justified. His subsequent books – except for his other Dent production of 1915, The New Europe, and a few at the end of his life  were signed Arnold J Toynbee.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

The last days of sail

June 9 2013

The writer of this Study had the good fortune, as a child, to catch a last glimpse of the sailing-ship before she vanished from the seas, and to be initiated into the lore of her divers rigs by the former master of an East Indiaman, his great-uncle Captain Henry Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1819-1909), who had retired from the sea in A.D. 1866 without ever having seen service on a steamship or indeed on any build of sailing-vessel other than a full ship since his first voyage at a tender age on a barque [which is a “full ship”]. On summer holidays in the eighteen-nineties at St. Margaret’s Bay on the English shore of the Straits of Dover, under the eye of the South Foreland lighthouse, the small boy learnt the rigs from the old sailor as the ships came gliding past: schooners and three-masted schooners and top-sail schooners (very common); brigantines and brigs (rather rare); barquentines and barques; and full-rigged ships ranging from classic three-masters to the four-masters and five-masters that were a nineteenth-century revival of a sixteenth-century fashion. He learnt to know and love them all, without ever suspecting that he would live to see the disappearance of this divine work of Man’s hands which, in his uncle’s confident eyes, was as much a part of the eternal order of Nature as the chalk cliff on which they were standing, or as the water which gave the measure of the distance from the shore to the passing ship. In the eighteen-nineties the sailing-ships plying through the Straits were still far more numerous than the steamships (though doubtless steam had by then long since outstripped sail in aggregate tonnage). As late as the summer of 1910, there used always to be several four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, and in the summer of 1911 the wreck of one huge sailing-ship was lying huddled against the cliffs between the South Foreland and Dover. Yet, already, forty years back, sail was being driven by steam off one sea-route after another. The China tea clippers had been put out of business by the opening of the Suez Canal in A.D. 1869, which had deprived them of their advantage over steamships trying to compete with them on the long voyage round the Cape; by A.D. 1875 all routes except the Australian had been captured by steamships; and in A.D. 1881 the Australian route itself was conquered for steam by the S.S. Aberdeen with her triple expansion engines, though the wool clippers went on fighting their losing battle till the end of the decade. The interval between the first two world wars saw the process of extinguishing the sailing-ship completed.

Clippers were very fast sailing-ships that appeared in their classic form at the same time as steamships and competed with them for a generation.

Footnotes refer to three works previously cited:

Clowes, G. S. L.: Sailing Ships, their History and Development: Part I: Historical Notes (London 1932, H.M. Stationery Office) [...].

Abell, W.: The Shipwright’s Trade (Cambridge 1948, University Press) [...].

Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap) [...].

Footnote on Uncle Harry:

“Captain Henry Toynbee was one of the most scientific navigators of his day. … ‘He was always sure of his longitude within five miles,’ writes one of his officers. And his wonderful landfalls were the admiration of his passengers.

“Toynbee … went to sea in 1833 at the age of fourteen as a midshipman in the East Indiaman Dunvegan Castle. … Toynbee’s first command was the Ellenborough; and he had also commanded the Gloriana and Marlborough before he took over the Hotspur, the command of which he resigned in 1866 in order to succeed Admiral Fitzroy as Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office. He retired in 1888, and lived to be over ninety years of age, an example of all that an officer in our mercantile marine should be” (Lubbock, Basil: The Blackwall Frigates, 2nd edition (Glasgow 1950, Brown, Son, & Ferguson), pp. 145-6).

Additional footnote:

In The Times of the 25th January, 1951, a photograph will be found of “the Pamir and Passat, the last two sailing barques to take part in the traditional grain race from Australia to England, lying at Penarth Docks. They will be taken in tow to Antwerp for breaking up.”

Petschili in the English Channel

The four-masted barque Petschili in the English Channel between 1903 and 1918; the Petschili was built in Hamburg in 1903 and beached in 1919 in Valparaiso and was a sister ship of the Pamir and Passat just mentioned; Wikimedia Commons

HS Tuke, Four-Masted Barque, 1914

One of those four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, watercolour, Henry Scott Tuke, 1914

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnotes)

A Conversation with Arnold Toynbee

May 12 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 18.42.58

“Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that his book will become outmoded, but that his notions are keys to opening up a vista of human affairs.”

Films Media Group offers streaming and/or a DVD of A Conversation with Arnold Toynbee from NBC’s Wisdom series, which were half-hour interviews with good and great broadcast allegedly between 1957 and ’65, though this one is said to have been conducted in 1955. No exact date is given, unless it appears in the end credits. Available in US only. Academic institutions get three-year streaming rights for $129.95. An individual can buy the DVD for the same price.

The first two minutes can be seen gratis as a preview, recorded in the spartan enough study of his flat at 45 Pembroke Square, Kensington.

“Professor Arnold Toynbee – eminent British historian and author of the ten-volume work A Study of History – talks with Harvard teaching fellow Christopher Wright in this NBC interview from 1955. Toynbee describes about how it took 27 years to complete his series and why he chose to study history on the level of civilizations rather than of single nations. Pointing out that his mother was also a historian, he discusses the path that led him to that field as well, then articulates his feeling that history is meaningless if not utilized for present-day insight; that one can discover patterns in the past without making heavy-handed predictions about the future; that there are about 20 large historical units, such as Western history, Greek history, Indian history, and others; and that the great religions of the world represent the ultimate structure of history. (29 minutes)”

Toynbee knew Wright, but Wright isn’t mentioned in his books or correspondence, or by McNeill.

“Airing on NBC from 1957 to 1965, the Wisdom series featured interviews with luminaries in science, the arts, and politics. These interviews were often conducted by a journalist or colleague well-known to the guest and usually took place in familiar surroundings such as the subject’s home or workplace. While each program forms a picturesque snapshot of the cultural conventions of the day, it frequently transcends its mid-20th-century broadcast style as it presents challenging and in-depth perspectives from a great mind. Guests include Igor Stravinsky, Robert Frost, Somerset Maugham, Eamon de Valera, Alfred P. Sloan, Robert Moses, Edward Steichen, Margaret Mead, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marcel Duchamp, Arnold Toynbee, and Carl Sandburg. 14-part series, 29 minutes each.” Links are to the rest of the series.

People who give many interviews develop an account of themselves which doesn’t change much. There are no surprises here, as there are not in most of his post-Study journalism.

“1. Professor Arnold Toynbee: Historian (02:03)
Available for Free Preview

The 10-volume set ‘A Study of History’ is Toynbee’s life’s work. Arnold Toynbee’s roots are in London although he harbors fond feelings for Yorkshire.

2. Professor Arnold Toynbee’s Passion for History (03:46)

‘A Study of History’ takes 27 years to complete. Toynbee’s mother was an influence on his desire to study history.

3. Toynbee’s Early Works (02:17)

In 1903 Professor Arnold Toynbee creates a drawing book fashioned in the form of a Greek Historian. Toynbee discusses his [1911-12] trip to Greece.

4. War Changes Toynbee’s Direction (03:11)

Sick with dysentery, Toynbee’s hospital stay during [surely before] the war changes his focus of history [it was the war itself that did that]. Toynbee soon [in the Greco-Turkish War] becomes a correspondent.

5. Importance of History (03:46)

Professor Arnold Toynbee does not believe a committee can write a book. He articulates his feeling that history is meaningless if not utilized for present-day insight. One can discover patterns in the past without making heavy-handed predictions about the future

6. Toynbee’s Theory of History (01:59)

Professor Arnold Toynbee feels that working with individual nations in history is too singular. He studies civilizations, origins, and believes that the great religions of the world represent the ultimate structure of history.

7. Characterizing Civilizations (03:13)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that one must look at other nations [not only one’s own] to understand an individual civilization. He discuses why he believes civilizations decline.

8. Challenge of Our Time (03:00)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes we have the power to save ourselves. He discusses the affect of atomic weapons on the imagination. All individuals make history.

9. Religion in History (02:35)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that any challenge puts you face to face with religion. Religion is the mystery behind phenomena.

10. History Moves and Changes (02:41)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that his book will become outmoded, but that his notions are keys to opening up a vista of human affairs. He discusses other works and his faith in the future.

11. Credits: A Conversation with Arnold Toynbee – From NBC’s Wisdom Series (00:27)”

Can anyone identify all the monuments at the beginning? The Buddha at the top here? Is the print as one approaches his study Canaletto or later? (Toynbee was Canaletto-conscious. Did Canaletto put birds in his skies?) The other prints? Are the volumes on his desk the Study?

Other posts that link or linked to recordings or film footage of Toynbee are here.

Saving England

April 29 2013

David Cameron on Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1990: “She didn’t just lead our country; she saved our country.”

Below, Saving England, piece by Toynbee, Encounter, Vol 18, No 1, January 1962, section called Spectrum. A number of writers had been invited to comment on the spirit of the previous decade.

He argues that England’s future is in the Common Market or EEC. See also:

1. Television broadcast on Englands Rolle in der Weltgeschichte, Third Programme of Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, winter 1961-62, heard in both English and German (with him speaking in both cases?); revised text published in German in England deutet sich selbst: 12 prominente Engländer über Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Kultur, Hamburg, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, 1962.

2. Article on Going into Europe, Encounter, Vol 20, No 2, February 1963.

3. Article on Europa, der Gemeinsame Markt und England, Merkur, Vol 17, No 12, December 1963.

4. Letter to The Times, Gesture to European Unity, February 28 1967. Signed also by Edward Beddington-Behrens, George Buchanan, Maurice Cranston, Barbara Hepworth, Julian S Huxley, Jan Le Witt, Henry Moore, Laurence Olivier, Roland Penrose, Herbert Read, Ceri Richards, Patrick Trevor-Roper, Bernard Wall and dated February 25. Probably not written by Toynbee, but he is first signatory and the others are alphabetical. Asks for an exhibition of contemporary European art in London “to dispel lingering doubts and to demonstrate urbi et orbi that the notion of ‘little England’ is a thing of the past [...]”. A curiously insular gesture even for 1967.

5. Television broadcast über das Verhältnis Großbritanniens zum europäischen Kontinent, presumably in German, Südwestrundfunk, Baden-Baden (?), February 10 1969.

6. Article, Key to the European Super State, The Times, October 12, 1971. Argues that entry into EEC need not damage relations with Commonwealth.

7. In Morton’s incomplete list of articles sent to the Observer Foreign News Service for syndication to unidentified media here and there around the world, we have Why De Gaulle Will Fail, about France as an agricultural country (1963), Britain’s Place in the World (1966) and Why Britain Must Join Europe (1970 and, presumably different, 1971). In her list of articles written for the Central Office of Information for use in unidentified ways overseas is Historical Reasons behind Britain’s Entry into the E.E.C. (1972).

Churchill had spoken about a United States of Europe in a speech at the University of Zürich on September 19 1946.

The Common Market or European Economic Community was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1958. Britain (and Norway, Denmark and Ireland) applied to join in 1961-62, under another Conservative, Harold Macmillan.

The spread of one’s spectrum depends on one’s age. If one is old enough to have been just grown-up before 1914, the far end of one’s spectrum will include a glimpse of Victorian-Edwardian England seen with a grown-up person’s eyes; and that glimpse, however brief, will abide in one’s memory as a foil against which all later events will stand out in sharp relief. If the accident of age has given one this perspective, that ought to be a help in trying to size up what has been happening in England in this last decade. The main feature of this decade has been a radical change in England’s position in the world; but it was the outbreak of war in 1914 that brought this change to the surface and gave it a momentum that was still unspent in the 1950s. This change is difficult for the English to cope with because the century that ended in 1914 was, for England, a time of rare greatness – and this in many different fields. Such a floruit was bound to be transitory. It is remarkable that England’s time of greatness should have lasted for a whole century; and, indeed, its full bloom did not last later than the 1870s. Anyway, it is over now, and England is having to find a new place for herself in a formidably changed world. In our own time, perhaps only one other country of the same stature is passing through the same ordeal, and that is France. The ordeal is a severe one, but, after all, it is the common lot. France and England are merely the latest of the many countries that have experienced it in the course of history up to date.

Sources of greatness: a landscape; a complex and detailed rural culture; the medieval Church; a Protestantism that encouraged people to think about their religion; a scientific tradition that went back to Francis, or Roger, Bacon (will we be reading obituaries of Sir Robert Edwardeses a century hence?); literary and scholarly traditions; political experience; individuality forged in idiosyncratic schools; privacy, from which vice came too; self-improvement among non-privileged urban people; humanitarian and social reforms.

In the past the English have avoided the awful mistake of crying over spilt milk. They have quickly found and milked new cows, instead of standing still and wringing their hands. They stopped grieving over their defeat in the Hundred Years War in the exhilaration of discovering and colonising a New World. They stopped grieving over the loss of the thirteen American Colonies in the exhilaration of making the Industrial Revolution and acquiring a new empire in India. In our day we have had recourse to this simple but effective British philosophy once again in meeting our own generation’s ordeal. Recognising, as we did in good time, that the days of colonial rule were numbered, we decided to make the liquidation of our 19th-century Empire into a festival instead of a funeral. We christened it the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth, and this has been no mere face-saving word-play; for, in the act of coining a new word, we managed to create a new reality. We also discovered that the maturing Commonwealth was not our only compensation for a fading empire. Simultaneously we found another new world to win within the coasts of our own island. If the 19th century was a golden age for England, it was not one for the great majority of her inhabitants. England’s century of economic and naval supremacy abroad was a century of shocking social inequality and injustice at home. In our generation we have won not only the Commonwealth but the Welfare State. (The name may be still controversial, at any rate in American mouths, but the thing itself has been accepted in England by all parties as a good thing which has come to stay.)

The Welfare State and the Commonwealth are obviously two of those exhilarating enterprises that are England’s traditional prescription for easing the painfulness of change. In both enterprises we have given ourselves an extra shot of exhilaration by contriving to be the pioneers and by doing promptly and with a good grace what we realised that we should have had to do, anyway, willy-nilly, sooner or later. Our good sense here is illustrated by the case of the French, who have done much the same things in the end but have done them belatedly, kicking miserably against the pricks and harvesting a minimum of credit, gratitude, and satisfaction. In contemplating their French contemporaries, the English of our generation are tempted to feel smug. The English can no more forget June 1940 than the French can, and the contrast between our respective performances in that year has, ever since, been making both nations awkward to deal with, particularly for themselves. The consciousness of having once been heroes can be as great a handicap as the consciousness of having once failed to rise to the occasion.

Fortunately to-day England is putting her childish pride in her pocket and is knocking at France’s door to ask for admittance to the Common Market. Within twenty-one years of the Battle of France the roles of the two countries have been reversed – and why? France is in a relatively strong position again to-day because she has discovered for herself the British remedy for the painfulness of change. On her overseas front France may be incorrigible. She seems to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing as a result of her successive fiascos in Syria, Indo-China, and Algeria. General de Gaulle seems still to be dreaming of conjuring back to life the military power of Napoleon’s France or Louis XIV’s. But, since the end of the Second World War, most Frenchmen have been busy over something else. They, like us, have found a new world to win within their own home territory. They have been putting France, for the first time, through a thoroughgoing industrial revolution, and, on this economic plane, they have begun to think of French prosperity in the new terms of a united Europe, instead of going on brooding over past French glory in the antique terms of the Rhine frontier.

The post-war French have been making this new vision of theirs effective by translating it into reality through hard work. The French have always been hard workers in good times and in bad times alike; and on this point they might well feel smug to-day in contemplating us. The need to work hard now is one from which the English cannot be absolved by any past achievements; not by our victory in the Battle of Britain, not by our transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth, not by the bloodless social revolution that has produced the Welfare State [the further Glorious Revolution, we might have been tempted to call it]. Achievements are wasting assets, and nothing but unremitting hard work can ever renew them. This truth ought to be obvious; for the post-war fruits of French hard work are only one example out of a multitude in the world around us. In a world in which Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Japanese, as well as Continental Europeans, are all working like beavers, can any nation afford to sit back and rest on its oars?

While the English have been prompt in making over the Empire into the Commonwealth and in narrowing the gulf between the former “two nations” on this island, we have been late in the day in accepting the fact that England is a part of Europe. The proper verdict on this English acceptance of geography is the one that Tennyson pronounced on the lady who told him that she accepted the universe: “By God, madam, you had better!” “How England saved Europe” was the title of a popular history of England’s role in the Napoleonic Wars that was published when I was a child. The author’s thesis was the conventional one that England saved Europe by keeping Europe divided. This may have been a service to Europe at times when unity was being forced on her by one Continental European country’s trying to conquer the rest. England once again saved Europe in that way in 1940; but the occasion will not recur; for to-day, when Europe has been dwarfed by the United States and the Soviet Union towering up on either side of her, that chapter of European and English history has been closed. On this point the Continental European countries have been quick in reading the signs of the times, and they have risen to the occasion by setting out to unite with each other by peaceful agreement. England has not, of course, dreamed of opposing this peaceful unification (she could not prevent it, even if she wished to). She has, however, dreamed of staying outside. This dream of England’s maintaining a self-contained sterling area next door to a united Continental Europe is about as crass an anachronism in our day as General de Gaulle’s dream of France’s regaining her Napoleonic military stature.

If England has now awoken from this dream of hers in time to gain admittance to the Common Market the title of the next chapter of the story may be “How Europe saved England.”

What is the Tennyson anecdote about? Does it have something to do with his proto-Darwinian preoccupations in In Memoriam?

The author of How England Saved Europe, four volumes, London, Smith, Elder and Co, 1899, was a Methodist emigré to Australia, William Henry Fitchett.


A year after this, on January 14 1963, de Gaulle vetoed the British application to join the EEC at a press conference at the Elysée Palace.

“England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions.”

L’Angleterre, en effet elle est insulaire, elle est maritime, elle est liée par ses échanges, ses marchés, ses ravitaillements aux pays les plus divers, et souvent les plus lointains; elle exerce une activité essentiellement industrielle et commerciale, et très peu agricole. Elle a dans tout son travail des habitudes et des traditions très marquées, très originales.

That was the first of his “Nons”, though, unlike Thatcher, with her reiterated Nos in the House of Commons, he did not use the word. October 30 1990: “The President of the Commission, M. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.”

The four countries reapplied in 1967. At a further press conference at the Elysée Palace on May 16, de Gaulle again made it clear that he would veto Britain’s application.

A few weeks later, the European Coal and Steel Community (1951, Treaty of Paris) and European Atomic Energy Community (1958, Treaty of Rome) were brought under the umbrella of the EEC. These were the three European Communities, often henceforward called European Community. The ECSC expired in 2002. The EAEC still exists. Would joining the EEC in 1962 have meant a fortiori joining the other two communities as well?

The transition to Pompidou in 1969 allowed the subject to be reopened. Negotiations began in 1970 under Edward Heath. Accession was on January 1 1973 under Heath (with Denmark and Ireland) without a referendum. The original six members became nine. Britain’s membership was confirmed in a referendum held on June 5 1975 under Harold Wilson. Thatcher won a permanent UK budget rebate in 1984. The EEC was renamed EU when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993, to reflect its wider range of operation.

De Gaulle thought in old-fashioned terms (he also saw in British membership a Trojan horse of American imperialism in Europe), but was right about Britain fundamentally. Cameron said similar things in his Bloomberg speech in London on January 23 2013, fifty years, nearly to the day, after de Gaulle’s. “It’s true that our geography has shaped our psychology. We have the character of an island nation: independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel. And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional. For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.”

Britain had seemed a semi-detached if not disruptive member. Thatcher never got past the idea that Germany had to be contained. Britain’s support of any proposal for expansion of membership masqueraded as pro-European, but came also from an instinct that the more members the Community had, the less likely it was to agree on anything or become monolithic. British political parties have ducked and woven through the decades to appease this or that side of a divided electorate. The Maastricht Treaty, though Thatcher had signed up to it (John Major signed it), left Britain more uneasy than ever.

The prospect, after the scale of the debt crisis became apparent in 2009, of a much tighter and more centralised fiscal régime in the EU concerned even a member that had opted out of joining the Euro (which was introduced in physical form in 2002). Cameron, op cit:

“At some stage in the next few years the EU will need to agree on treaty change to make the changes needed for the long-term future of the euro and to entrench the diverse, competitive, democratically accountable Europe that we seek. I believe the best way to do this will be in a new treaty, so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this. My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new treaty for us all, then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners. The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament. It will be a relationship with the single market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.”


Toynbee had suffered an incapacitating stroke by the time Thatcher became Leader of the Opposition in February 1975. What would he have thought of her? He and his wife joined the Labour Party in 1918 and voted for it at the Khaki election, to the disgust of the Countess of Carlisle. McNeill: “His attraction to the Labour Party [...] dimmed after 1922 almost as swiftly as it had arisen, and Toynbee retreated from political activism towards a nonparty, vaguely liberal point of view in domestic and foreign affairs.” He would vote Liberal in later years.

More than one piece of journalism by him in the ’60s and ’70s expresses alarm at the trade unions’ abuse of their power. He lived to see the nadir of postwar economic morale in England, the Three-Day Week in the first quarter of 1974 under the Conservative government of Heath, though not its reprise, the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79 under the Labour government of Jim Callaghan which led to Thatcher’s victory. See:

1. Letter to The Times, Backing Britain, February 10 1968 about Wilson’s I’m Backing Britain campaign and the secret union trial and condemnation of four shop stewards who did back Britain by working an extra half-hour a day without pay (he calls himself a Liberal in this letter). This seemed a tawdry and tired campaign even at the time, but was much-noticed in an age of few media outlets and gave a pop-art twist to use of the national flag.

2. Article on The English Sickness, The Observer, November 10 1974. I remember in the ’80s looking at a pile of letters in an attic in which was a letter from early 1974 from one inhabitant of educated Hampstead to another. The writer, who had lived though the war in England, wrote that he had never known morale in the country so low.

3. Article on A State within the State, The Observer, October 26 1975. This was four days after his death and is presented in Tomlin’s anthology as evidence that “Toynbee’s mastery of historical analogy remained with him until the last”. The Observer introduces it as “this last article [...] before his death”. But it cannot have been written after his stroke in August 1974 – which begs the question why it was presented thus. Perhaps it was about to be printed and withheld because of his illness. Its reference to Mr Healey’s budget must be to his first budget in March 1974.

4. In Morton’s incomplete list of articles sent to the Observer Foreign News Service for syndication here and there around the world, we have The English Sickness (1966) and The Second Battle of Britain, about the 1972 coal miners’ strike (1972).

I think he would have welcomed Thatcher, with reservations. He loathed the attitude to work of the trade unions. Thatcher introduced legislation to limit their powers and beat the miners in the endgame, the 1984-85 strike. Heath had been brought down by the miners’ strikes of 1972 and ’74.

He welcomes the Welfare State in its original conception, but would have despised the dependency culture. He believed in self-reliance and thrift. His sympathy for his rural Yorkshire neighbours’ reaction to proto-underclass-sounding city visitors in the late ’30s who

“don’t know how to cook and [...] don’t know how to sew and [...] don’t know how to cure a ham; and [...] can’t even sit at home and talk, because they have nothing in their heads to talk about”

would have been shared by Thatcher in her reminiscing-about-Grantham mode. The reform of the welfare state, which Cameron is now tackling, is Thatcher’s unfinished business.

Not that the work of the welfare state is done. See the return of soup kitchens and food banks in Britain and across swathes of Europe and the US since 2009.

His reservations would not have come from snobbery. But he might have been torn between some of this and a compassionate social conscience, which his uncle, Arnold Toynbee, the economic historian, had had in rich measure and which his own granddaughter, the very unThatcherite Polly Toynbee, would inherit.

He had an equally low opinion of the standard of universal education that Britain had achieved since 1870. The Yorkshire countrywoman’s

view was a tragic commentary upon the social effects of our present half-baked system of Universal Education.

The popular press degraded people.

The bread of Universal Education is no sooner cast upon the waters of social life than a shoal of sharks rises from the depths and devours the children’s bread [footnote: Matt xv 26] under the philanthropists’ eyes. In the educational history of England, for example, the dates speak for themselves. Universal compulsory gratuitous public instruction was inaugurated in this country in A.D. 1870; [footnote: The system of universal direct compulsion was not made complete until 1880, and the practical establishment of free education not until 1891.] the Yellow Press was invented some twenty years later – as soon as the first generation of children from the national schools had come into the labour market and acquired some purchasing power – by a stroke of irresponsible genius which had divined that the educational philanthropist’s labour of love could be made to yield the newspaper-king a royal profit.

So did advertising. So did nearly all manifestations of modern popular culture in Britain. He disliked the professionalisation of sport. Television was

a form of escapism which I arrogantly despise [...].

Not everything was bad. He liked the hippies. But

“Recreation” in the present-day Western sense has always seemed to me to be an unhealthy regression to childishness. I have therefore despised it, and I believe I have been right. But does not this judgement commit me to condemning, with it, my own trick of keeping myself preoccupied by a continuous agenda of work all round the clock? This discomfort that I am feeling now that my half-century-long agenda is at an end suggests that, for me, this was serving the same perverse purpose as the infantile philistine’s radio and television. It was making it possible for me to avert my mind from “other business” [spiritual business, and looking inward] from which I shrink [...].

Thatcher achieved her reforms at the cost of a certain barbarising of society. Wasn’t she a kind of Diocletian?

Nowadays we don’t think of the welfare state as an “exhilarating enterprise”, we think of it as a social and fiscal problem. We don’t think of the French as hard-working either.

The problem for Britain now is: what is the next great enterprise? The fig-leaf on the world stage of the great liar Tony Blair was to “punch above our weight”. It was a Conservative, Douglas Hurd, who had first used the metaphor, in 1993 (I am not saying it is an impossible thing to do). The Yorkshirewoman was right. The entire challenge is to develop private, and civic, life. Ecological and other change will follow from that.

If that article were to be written today, “education” would have to be mentioned in place of “Welfare State” and “challenge of creating a stable, well-integrated multicultural society” in place of “Commonwealth”. We encouraged immigration to give ourselves a shot in the arm. We showed more enthusiasm in internalising our empire than in merging ourselves with Europe.

Morale is sometimes high during a war and collapses after it. That had happened to England by 1979, whatever Toynbee says about making festivals instead of funerals. Strikes offered a kind of perpetuation of the feeling of heightened living, as if we had become addicted to that in 1940. The Ealing comedies (1947-57) were in large part a celebration of mediocrity. The Suez fiasco in 1956 humiliated the ruling class. (In the same year, the literary establishment suffered a collapse of credibility with the Colin Wilson affair, in which Philip Toynbee was one of the duped.)

A superficial prosperity allowed the mock-Edwardian Macmillan to assure the working class that they had “never had it so good”. The stranglehold of the trade unions became tighter under Wilson, Heath and Callaghan. Middle-class morale picked up under Thatcher. Some sections of the industrial working class suffered from her policies and haven’t forgiven her.

BBC story today about a return to “east of Suez”, from which Britain had supposedly completed its withdrawal in 1971.


Young, possibly homeless, man on Great Russell Street, central London; photograph by Nicola Albon, posted February 21 2012 on her excellent blog Slice of London Life; copyright, used with permission; click for better resolution

Saving England, Encounter, Vol 18, No 1, January 1962

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Gropings in the Dark, essay, September 1973, in An Historian’s Approach to Religion, second edition (previously unpublished), with new Preface, May 1978, by Veronica Toynbee, OUP, 1979, posthumous

Experiences, OUP, 1969


March 19 2013

P.T.: You rather like bleak Middle-Eastern scenery, don’t you?

A.T.: Yes. The Mediterranean and the Middle East. I like that stark, bare, rather severe scenery: the hard lines and simple colours, like the Umbrian School of Painting – or the Pre-Raphaelites.

P.T.: And yet, where you live, in Westmorland, it could hardly be more unlike that.

A.T.: Yes, very watery, and beautiful, too, in its own way, but my feeling is really for the other kind of scenery.

Pietro Perugino, Pietà con San Girolamo e Santa Maria Maddalena

Pietro Perugino, Pietà con San Girolamo e Santa Maria Maddalena, Perugia, National Gallery of Umbria; the hard lines may come from landscape, but aren’t limited to it in paintings, nor is Umbria especially stark

Tiberio d’Assisi, Concession of the Indulgence

Tiberio d’AssisiConcession of the Indulgence, Assisi, Chapel of the Roses, Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Pope Honorius III confirming the Porziuncola indulgence, with Mary present)

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

The Authorised Version

March 12 2013

The Authorized Version of the Bible, made in the reign of King James I, gives me, whenever I read it or hear it being read, an intimation of the divine presence informing our fragment of a mysterious Universe. The effect of a diction that is archaic yet at the same time familiar is more like that of music than like that of ordinary speech. It pierces through the Intellect and plays directly upon the Heart.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The arc light

November 9 2012

When, as a child, I used to come home from Kensington Gardens, on winter evenings, after dark, across the bridge leading from Westbourne Terrace to Upper Westbourne Terrace over the Great Western Railway, a palaeotechnic arc light was mounted on a tall standard, overlooking the bridge, to illuminate the marshalling yard below; and, as I passed by, I used to be fascinated by the blue flame flickering between the two black carbon points. Long afterwards, when I was ruminating on the mysterious process through which spiritual illumination arises out of schism in the Soul and in Society, a vivid memory of my early impression of the arc light came to the aid of my imagination.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Repetitive experiences

November 5 2012

“Any man of forty who is endowed with moderate intelligence has seen – in the light of the uniformity of Nature – the entire Past and Future.” [Footnote: Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations, Book IX, chap. 2 [...]. Marcus’s melancholy view of Human Life was brought home to the  writer by two repetitive experiences – one consummated when he was fifty-one and the other when he was fifty-seven. One day in May 1940, as he was approaching the corner of the Cornmarket and George Street in Oxford, his eye caught a poster in a newspaper-vendor’s hand announcing: “Liége falls: Forts held impregnable smashed by German guns”, and, for an instant, he was at a loss to know whether he was living in A.D. 1940 or A.D. 1914, because, at the same corner in August 1914, he had been given the same shock by a poster displaying the same words. His second experience of the kind occurred on a day in April 1946, when, as the official train carrying the British Delegation to the Peace Conference of Paris halted at a point between Calais Harbour and Calais Town, it occurred to him that this was the point where the Delegation had been given lunch when they had been travelling this way on this train on a day in December, 1918. Looking out of the railway-carriage window to identify the building, he found that this time it had been rased to the ground.]

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Toy missiles

October 22 2012

P.T.: Have you ever talked to the real fire-eaters, to any of the Pentagon generals?

A.T.: Well now, I was once invited to give a talk in the Pentagon to a roomful of staff colonels, and the wife of the then Secretary for War got up and attacked me for saying that we ought to recognise China. She was a real fire-eater. She had no business to be there, I suppose, but she didn’t hesitate to throw her – or perhaps it was her husband’s – weight about in the presence of all those distinguished professionals. I got a horrible feeling when I went into the Secretary for War’s office. It was full of little cardboard models of missiles. They were all over the tables and chairs and everywhere, and he was delighting in them – like a child surrounded by its toys. Now that was alarming.

He presumably means Secretary of Defense, who replaced the Secretary of War (office abolished; established 1789) in the US cabinet in 1947.

In Britain a Minister of Defence separate from the prime minister replaced the Secretary of State for War (office established 1794; the “War Office”) in the cabinet in 1946, but the office survived as a non-cabinet post. It was abolished in 1964, along with that of First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for Air, and the cabinet minister was restyled Secretary of State for Defence.

Nixon visited China in 1972. The US recognised China on January 1 1979. Russia and China had been diverging ideologically since 1956. The Sino-Soviet split came into the open in 1961 and was never repaired.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

1897 and the end of history 2

June 19 2012

Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his Sixty Years a Queen, “The Story of Her Majesty’s Reign, Illustrated Chiefly from the Royal Collections”, [footnote: London 1897, arranged and printed by Eyre & Spottiswoode, published by Harmsworth Bros.] revealed to me, in his panorama, the achievements of Victorian England.

One of the Acknowledgments in the tenth volume of the Study which were so comprehensively ridiculed by Trevor-Roper.

Toynbee had referred to the same book in the preceding volume.

“History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London [1897] [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century.


“To me it is a matter of indifference whether he read some unimportant book in the library of the Athenæum Club or in No. 45 Pembroke Square, in the summer of 1907 or in September 1952.” Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957.

But he misses the point of those Acknowledgments. There is a larger humility and delight behind the apparent self-centredness. And Toynbee is a romantic. Moreover, if you have a critical mind, it doesn’t matter what you read, since all history is two histories anyway: the subject purportedly being handled and the viewpoint of the historian. The meaning is in the synthesis, as you, a further element, perceive it.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

John Alexander Smith

June 18 2012

J. A. Smith allowed me to educate myself by listening in to a spacious and fertile mind thinking aloud.

Smith was Jowett Lecturer of philosophy at Balliol when Toynbee was an undergraduate there.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

1897 and the end of history

June 4 2012

The outlook prevalent among people of the middle class in Great Britain at the earliest date in the last decade of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era at which the writer had begun to be aware of the psychological atmosphere of his social milieu was something that was best conveyed in caricature. In this milieu in the eighteen-nineties the feeling was:

“History is now at an end; this history is therefore final”;

[footnote: Sellar, W.C., and Yeatman, R. J.: 1066 and All That (London 1930, Methuen), p. viii.] and at this date this Weltanschauung was shared with an English middle class by the children of the German and the Northern American victors in the latest bout of Modern Western wars (gerebantur circa A.D. 1848-71). The beneficiaries from this aftermath of the General War of A.D. 1792-1815 had not, by then, begun to suspect, any more than their English “opposite numbers” had, that the Modern Age of Western history had been wound up only to inaugurate a post-Modern Age pregnant with imminent experiences that were to be at least as tragic as any tragedies yet on record. At the close of the nineteenth century even a German middle class, that was then still permitting itself to indulge in criminally irresponsible day-dreams of more frisch fröhlich six-weeks’ wars, was of the same mind as its North American and English “opposite numbers” in its workaday sober senses. In these three provinces of a post-Modern Western World an unprecedentedly prosperous and comfortable Western middle class was taking it as a matter of course that the end of one age of one civilization’s history was the end of History itself at least so far as they and their kind were concerned. They were imagining that, for their benefit, a sane, safe, satisfactory Modern Life had miraculously come to stay as a timeless present. “History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London [1897] [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century. The assumption that the final product of those sixty years A.D. 1837-97 had come to stay was patently contrary to reason, considering that the pictures with which the text of Sixty Years a Queen was copiously illustrated presented a fascinatingly fast-moving pageant of change in every department of life, from Technology to Dress, in which change could clothe itself in visual form. In A.D. 1952 it was manifest in retrospect, even to the dullest eye, that this visual evidence had portended, not a perpetuation of the fleeting circumstances of late-nineteenth-century English middle-class life, but a revolutionary transformation of the ephemeral Victorian scene along the grim lines actually followed by the course of History within the next half-century. An oracular foreboding of the future was, indeed, uttered at the time by the Subconscious Psyche through an incongruous poetic medium. Yet Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional made little impression on the contemporaries of a Late Victorian poet who had found himself writing these ominous lines at an imperious Muse’s dictation. In the United Kingdom, as in Germany and in the Northern United States, the complacency of a post-Modern Western bourgeoisie remained unshaken till the outbreak of the first post-Modern general war in A.D. 1914.

English middle-class Conservatives for whom the Millennium had already arrived, and English middle-class Liberals for whom it lay only just round the corner, were, of course, aware that the English working class’s share in the middle class’s economic prosperity was shockingly small, and that British subjects in most of the colonies and dependencies of the United Kingdom were not enjoying a self-government that was the privilege of their fellow subjects in the United Kingdom itself and in a few other dominions of the British Crown; but these political and economic inequalities were discounted by Liberals as being something remediable and by Conservatives as being something inevitable. Citizens of the United States at the North were similarly aware, for their part, that their own economic prosperity was not shared by their fellow-citizens at the South, and that the fathers of these Southern contemporaries of theirs had seceded from the Union and had been brought back into it only by the force majeure of the North’s crushing victory over the South in a terrible civil war. Citizens of the German Reich were aware that the inhabitants of a “Reichsland” annexed from France after her crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of A.D. 1870-1 were still French at heart and that the rest of a French nation which had not yet ceased to be a Great Power was still unreconciled to the amputation of the ceded departments. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries France was still entertaining thoughts of a revanche, and the subject population in Alsace-Lorraine was still dreaming the same dream of an eventual liberation as other subject populations in Slesvik, Poland, Macedonia, and Ireland. These dissatisfied contemporaries of a sated German, British, and North American bourgeoisie were nursing national grievances and national aspirations which did not permit them to acquiesce in a comfortable belief that “History” was “at an end”; indeed they could not have continued, as they did continue, to keep alight the flickering flame of a forlorn hope if they had succumbed to a Weltanschauung which, for them, would have spelled, not security, but despair. Yet their unwavering confidence that a, to them, intolerable established régime must be borne away, sooner or later, by Time’s “ever rolling stream” made little impression on the torpid imagination of “the Ascendancy”. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”; [footnote: Isa. liii. 7.] and, though “the Ascendancy” was under a delusion in mistaking for an intimation of consent a silence that was inspired by the watchword “N’en parlons jamais, y pensons toujours”, [footnote: The watchword suggested for the guidance of members of the rising generation in France, on the morrow of her loss of Alsace-Lorraine in A.D. 1871, by a French statesman of an older generation (? Paul Déroulède).] [unusual question mark ... it seems to have been Gambetta who said this] there was in A.D. 1897 no living man or woman, even among the most sanguine-minded prophets of a nationalist or a socialist revolution, who dreamed that a demand for national self-determination was going to break up the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, and Romanov empires and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland within the next twenty-five years, and going to spread, within another twenty-five years, from a few sore spots in Western Europe and in Orthodox Christendom to the uttermost parts of the Old World, or that a demand for social democracy was going to spread from the urban working class in a few precociously industrialized provinces of the Western World to the peasantry of Mexico and China. Gandhi (natus A.D. 1869) and Lenin (natus A.D. 1870) were then still unknown names; and the word “Communism” then commemorated a lurid event in the past that had been the last eruption of History’s now extinct volcano. This ominous outbreak of savagery in a Parisian underworld in A.D. 1871 was written off by optimistic post-Modern Western minds as an abnormal atavistic reaction to the shock of a startling military disaster, and there was no discernible fear of the recrudescence of a conflagration that had been smothered now for longer than a quarter of a century under a bourgeois Third Republic’s wet blanket. In 1897 a Western bourgeois gentilhomme’s sleep was not being seriously disturbed by prophetic nightmares.

The revelation of Thucydides

The view from 1897

Colonialism: The view from 1969

Victorian pennies were current until 1971, the year Britain completed its withdrawal from most of its bases east of Suez

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954


March 29 2012

A trio of vaguely related posts here:

Balliol, Trinity Term 1914


Toynbee at Brideshead

A rare fascinator

December 9 2011

“I thought Arnold [...] a rare fascinator [...].”

Jessica Mitford on meeting him in San Francisco in November 1967. In Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee, Heinemann, 1984.

Cumberland Sauce

December 6 2011

My Mother’s account of her conversation with the disgruntled custodian of the deserted royal palace at Hanover, when she visited it during her stay in Germany in A.D. 1885, made me realize, even as a child, that all was not well under the surface in Prussia-Germany.

We are told no more about this conversation. The palace was deserted because Prussia had annexed Hanover in 1866. The Kingdom of Hanover became the Prussian province of Hanover.

From 1708 to 1803, Hanover had been an Electorate, technically the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, informally the Electorate of Hanover. The first Elector, George, became King of Great Britain in 1714.

In 1813, after the Napoleonic Wars, George III was restored to his Hanoverian territories. In October 1814 they were erected into a Kingdom of Hanover at the Congress of Vienna. The Congress demanded a territorial exchange between Hanover and Prussia in which Hanover increased its area substantially. The personal union with the United Kingdom ended in 1837, with the accession of Queen Victoria, because the Salic Law in Hanover prevented a female from inheriting the title if there was any surviving male heir. William IV’s brother Ernst August became the Hanoverian king.

In the United Kingdom, a male took precedence only over his own sisters. The new Act of Settlement being discussed in 2011 will end even that precedence if it is passed. If the Salic Law had applied in England in 1837, we would have had a King Ernest. He died a few weeks after the close of the Great Exhibition.

Queen Victorian was, nevertheless, a Hanoverian. Her successor, Edward VII, was not: he belonged to the line of his father, Prince Albert, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Ernst August had been created Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh in 1799. His grandson the 3rd Duke and Earl, the son of the last King of Hanover, George (or Georg) V, had the great Hanoverian (not originally English) delicacy, Cumberland Sauce, named after him, but was deprived of his British peerages for having sided with Germany during the First World War.

The Schloss zu Herrenhausen circa 1890-1905, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. It was destroyed during the Second World War.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Salvation and the Mediterranean diet

December 3 2011

How can a sacrament that is thus indissolubly associated with the regional diet of Homo Mediterraneus be expected to serve as a means of grace for the rice-eating majority of Mankind, in continents where the vine does not grow, and in archipelagos that know no name for bread? [Footnote: The writer of this Study vividly remembers how forcibly his own provincialism was borne in upon him when – landing in Japan in the autumn of A.D. 1929, and making his way up country from Nara to Koya San, the Mahayanian Olympus – he found himself compelled to ask for an unobtainable form of food in Portuguese, because, in the Japanese language, there was no indigenous word for “bread”.]

The loan word was and is pan (パン), from pão. Portuguese wine was chintashu (珍陀酒), combining tinto, red, whence chinta, and shu (), liquor. Nowadays the word is wain (ワイン). (There were no olives in Japan either, or tomatoes.) Rice is the staple food of about half the world’s population, but perhaps not of the majority.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

Laughter in the quad

November 28 2011

I remember, at the beginning of a university term during the Bosnian crisis of 1908-9, [the historian] Professor L. B. Namier, then an undergraduate at Balliol and back from spending a vacation at his family home just inside the Galician frontier of Austria, saying to us other Balliol men, with (it seemed to us) a portentous air: “Well, the Austrian army is mobilized on my father’s estate and the Russian army is just across the frontier, half-an-hour away.” It sounded to us like a scene from The Chocolate Soldier, but the lack of comprehension was mutual, for a lynx-eyed Central European observer of international affairs found it hardly credible that these English undergraduates should not realize that a stone’s-throw away, in Galicia, their own goose, too, was being cooked.

In a later book, Toynbee places this incident several years later.

Lewis Namier had been born Ludwik Bernsztajn vel Niemirowski in 1888 in Russian-controlled Poland, to non-practising Jewish parents. His father (unlike him) idolised the Hapsburgs and acquired an estate across the border in Austrian Poland, ie Galicia.

At Balliol, where Namier arrived in 1908, he was known as Bernstein. In 1910 he changed his name to Lewis Bernstein Naymier and in 1913 anglicised it further to Namier. Toynbee, rightly or wrongly, calls him Bernstein in 1912-13.

In my picture, Eastern Europe was still a terra incognita, though regions that were far more remote from England – for instance, India, China, and Malaya – already meant something to me, thanks to my education by Uncle Harry and by Cousin Fred. In this, I was typical of my generation and my kind in England; and most of Bernstein’s and my contemporaries at Balliol persisted in their state of invincible ignorance about Eastern Europe till they were overtaken by the outbreak of war in August 1914. They failed to profit by the opportunity of learning about Bernstein’s world at first hand from Bernstein himself because they were allergic to him and therefore to his homeland. They did not take him seriously, and they therefore could not recognize that his world, too, was real.

In the last academic year but one before the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Bernstein was still at Balliol, while I was back there again as a don. This was the year of the two Balkan wars. In one of that year’s vacations – I forget whether it was at Christmas 1912 or at Easter 1913 – Bernstein had gone home to visit his family, and he came back to Oxford looking worried. “The international situation is very serious,” he reported to us. “The Austrian Army is mobilized on my father’s estate, and the Russian Army is mobilized just across the frontier, only twenty minutes’ walk away. A European war is just round the corner now.” Bernstein was given no chance of enlarging on his grave theme. At the words “European war”, most of the young Englishmen whom Bernstein was addressing in Balliol front quad burst out laughing, as the Athenians had laughed when St. Paul, in his address to them on the Areopagus, came to the words “resurrection from the dead”. Too good to be true! Ruritania was running true to form! As entertaining as a novel of Anthony Hope’s! Ruritania? But what about Utopia? Certainly, Bernstein’s world and the laughers’ world could not both be real; for they were mutually incompatible. Which of the two would prove to have been the reality and which would prove to have been the mirage? It was Bernstein’s world, not the laughers’ world, whose reality was vindicated in the event. Within three years of this fantastic conversation in the quad, half of those unfortunate laughers were dead.

The English film director Ken Russell died yesterday. The Rainbow, after DH Lawrence, is no longer on YouTube, so I can’t link to its wonderfully-directed vignette of a pre-1914 view of war (I don’t think it’s in the book) where Ursula and the soldier Anton wander into Winifred and Uncle Tom’s wedding party.

Everyone there is tipsy, older and foolish. Ursula and Anton are sober, young, post-coital and somehow pre-foolish. Ursula’s father and the grinning Tom improvise a dance whose choreography includes firing an imaginary pistol at each other. As the dance ends, Will collapses to the floor and Tom plunges an imaginary bayonet into him.

The novel is set during the Boer War, but was published in 1915.

Floor games

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948

Acquaintances, OUP, 1967

Toynbee at Brideshead

November 1 2011

Sligger Urquhart and Sikh, Balliol, c 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission

Mr Samgrass in Brideshead Revisited, Sillery in A Dance to the Music of Time and Irwin in The History Boys are cited by Jacob Heilbrunn as “overweening” fictional historians in a review of Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010, in the The National Interest, September-October.

The model for Samgrass (All Souls) is usually said to be Maurice Bowra (Wadham), but he must have had elements of FF (“Sligger”) Urquhart, the snobbish homosexual Dean of Balliol from 1918 to 1934, in him. Some have suggested Isaiah Berlin (All Souls), who was perhaps more of a social snob than Bowra. It is impossible for people now to know what Bowra’s social reputation was based on. The best that can be said of his reported jokes is that one had to be there. But the impression he made on generations of undergraduates and others was deep.

Anthony Powell (Balliol) was a pupil of Urquhart, which Waugh (Hertford) was not. He also knew Bowra, I think, better than Waugh did. He placed Sillery in a setting based on Urquhart’s salon (is a college named?), but denied drawing on him otherwise. He also denied modelling him on Bowra. He seems, rather, to have used Sir Ernest Barker, who wasn’t an Oxford man.

The model for Alan Bennett’s Irwin (teaches at a fictional school in Sheffield, but an Oxford man) seems to have been Niall Ferguson (Jesus and elsewhere).

CRMF Cruttwell, dean of Hertford, gained a kind of immortality by having various dubious and very unacademic characters in several of Waugh’s pre-war novels named after him. Sniggs and Postlethwaite in Decline and Fall are too sketchy to be based on anyone.

Sligger had been a model for Walter Pater’s “imaginary portrait” Emerald Uthwart, published in The New Review in 1892. Waugh even acted him in a silent film, The Scarlet Woman, that he made as an undergraduate, and he draws a portrait of him in his biography of Ronald Knox. Horace Slughorn in the Harry Potter books may be distantly related to him. For Toynbee, Urquhart was the archetypal college-bound historian. The prospect of his own career taking such a path horrified him.

I mentioned Urquhart in a post called Balliol, Trinity Term 1914, one of the better posts here. There are now over 2,000 photos by or of him in the Balliol archive at Flickr (Urquhart albums 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9, more than when I did the earlier post), some taken in Oxford, some abroad, often at the chalet which his father had built in the valley of Chamonix, to which Sligger brought many visitors. It became known as the Chalet des Anglais. There are a few at Balliol College Archives. “Every available inch of mantelpiece and walls [in Urquhart’s rooms] was covered with photographs of previous generations of undergraduates”: Humphrey Carpenter, The Brideshead Generation.

If the overweening Trevor-Roper has not yet been the model for a fictional character, then one day he will be. Alan Bennett improbably acted him in the 1991 ITV half-comic drama-documentary about the Hitler diaries fiasco, Selling Hitler.

Toynbee was not a social climber or snob, but married into the family which owned Castle Howard. As an undergraduate at Oxford, he came to know the Regius Professor of Greek (the chair was at Christ Church), Gilbert Murray, who was married to Mary Howard (1865-1956), daughter of the Earl of Carlisle. In March 1910 he was invited to visit the family seat (Vanbrugh). Lady Mary’s parents were living, but the 9th Earl died in 1911, leaving the Dowager Countess (née Stanley) the head of the family. In September 1913 Toynbee married the Murrays’ daughter Rosalind.

Rosalind’s alcoholic, left-leaning brother Basil is said to have been the model for Waugh’s anti-hero Basil Seal in Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags. And Nancy Mitford writes to Evelyn Waugh on September 12 1964: “Ph Toynbee [Toynbee’s son] [...] seems to be a re-incarnation of old Baz” (Charlotte Mosley, editor, The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, Hodder and Stoughton, 1996).


Trevor-Roper’s snobberies were rampant, but they did not prevent him, as they should have, from mocking Toynbee thus (The Prophet, review of McNeill’s biography of Toynbee, New York Review of Books, October 12 1989):

“There was a good chance, given the countess’s power and whims, that this favorite granddaughter might ultimately inherit Castle Howard and the great estate which went with it. Then the financial circumstances of the Toynbees would change. They would live in aristocratic grandeur, entertaining the great and writing immortal works.”

Toynbee and Rosalind joined the Labour Party in 1918 (they abandoned it around 1922; Toynbee would vote Liberal thereafter). The Khaki election and the eclipse of the Liberal Party were “an intolerable and unexpected turn of the screw” for the Countess. “Those who had abandoned the Liberal cause and joined with Labour counted as nothing less than traitors in her eyes; and, of course, Toynbee and Rosalind were among the guilty.” Quotations from McNeill.

The Countess would write to him on May 2 1919 and rail against “the great catastrophe of the election”. “And after all what have you to do with Castle Howard? This beautiful place so lovable for those who accept it with a simple affection and clear conscience – but such a jarring false note, such a mockery for those who have joined the ranks of the people who have declared war on such as we, who dwell in great rooms filled with private galleries of books and pictures. Is it not anathema to your comrades? Then why come here?”

May 6: “I understand that you and Rosalind enrolled yourselves in the Labour Party last winter: that party is fighting hard the Liberals (sic) and will smash us if they can. … I have been an intense passionate lover of my Liberal creed and party all my life long. … If I were to have as my guests … those who belong to a party that seeks to compass our destruction, there could be no vivid, helpful, comforting talk for me. We should have to keep off political subjects and that would make intercourse very unreal and dry and very different from our old breezy, happy times.”

One is reminded of Forster. Howards End, no less. Who would inherit England? If Castle Howard could be called England.

The Toynbees never did inherit Castle Howard. The teetotal Dowager, who died in 1921, left it to her teetotal daughter Mary, not to her sons or to the grandson, the 11th Earl (1895-1963), who had inherited the earldom in 1912; but the Murrays declined the inheritance. It passed to the Dowager’s only surviving son, Geoffrey Howard (1877-1935), in whose family it has remained. Toynbee and his wife got a smaller house next door, Ganthorpe Hall, and do not appear to have resented the Murrays for their decision.


Castle Howard was made into Brideshead in both the good eleven-hour 1980 ITV adaptation and bad 2008 film adaptation of Waugh’s novel. The description of Brideshead doesn’t match Castle Howard exactly (there is a dome at Castle Howard, but no columns), but it is close enough.

The film is bad because, like many others, it substitutes vague atmospherics for drama and acting. Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain is a kind of short-cut and conveys nothing of the class or period. Matthew Goode is a vacuous Charles Ryder. But the main error is that Julian Jarrold has decided that the story is about “guilt”. “Catholic guilt.” Sebastian’s problem may be “guilt”, but “guilt” is not part of Christian moral thinking and was not in Waugh’s mind. Waugh’s theme was: “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters”.

Perhaps it is as well that Toynbee did not live permanently in Castle Howard or his

Ambition with a great screaming A

(letter to Robert Darbishire, January 30 1910) might have got out of hand. He might have seemed even more eccentric. Kenneth Clark wondered on television in a gallery in the Vatican whether “a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit has ever been conceived or written down in an enormous room”. He added in the book: “except, perhaps, in the reading room of the British Museum”.

Toynbee to Robert Darbishire, Saturday March 5 1910:

I am going off to-day week with Gilbert Murray to Castle Howard, a fenced city of his parents-in-law, somewhere in Yorkshire. I wonder if Lady Carlysle (is it so spelt?) will be in residence? – like Lady Mary, I am told, plus temperance, raised to the tenth power. It will be very amusing and delightful.

Sebastian drives Charles to Brideshead on a “cloudless” day in June 1923. Toynbee arrived on March 12 1910 in equally sunny, but colder, weather; but

The Sun makes up for all.

Earlier in the same letter to Darbishire:

It is a great and marvellous place, early 18th century style on the vast scale, with pictures and lakes and statues and libraries and all manner of things.

Lady Carlysle is obviously a mighty force, but not, perhaps, so formidable. Would though that I was less entirely at sea about politics [footnote: Lady Carlisle was intensely interested in social causes; cf. West, Gilbert Murray: A Life, pp. 25-27.] – domestic matters, I mean, for I only read the foreign sheet of the Times, while police courts, cabinet crises, football leagues, and such “own dirty linen” I eschew. However, I shall doubtless know plenty about home politics before I go away. Do you like Canalettos? They cover all the walls in the room where we eat [Toynbee on Canaletto] – I won’t call it the dining room, for there are at least twenty like it. There are also Wattses [he describes a Watts in Experiences], and crowds of nice solid books of the eighty years ago kind.

Altogether, it is more peaceful, and less of a “fearful joy” [Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College] than I expected.

In 1913 he would spend his honeymoon there.

1980 music by Geoffrey Burgon.

Apropos the picture at the top: Balliol had Indian connections. In 1853 entry to the Indian Civil Service was opened through a competitive exam. Many applicants passed through Balliol. Toynbee’s uncle, the original Arnold, had been tutor there in charge of ICS candidates. In the early twentieth century (or before?: the first Indian(s) at Oxford had arrived in 1871) Balliol admitted a number of Indian and other Asian students, which strengthened the contrast between Balliol and its more socially conservative rival Trinity. The Boden Chair of Sanskrit (established 1831) has been attached to Balliol since 1880.

Sligger and friend, c 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission

Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous

Not just Ray Bradbury 3

October 19 2011

Olaf Stapledon was older than Toynbee, but overlapped with him at Balliol (post on Balliol), where he read Modern History. A letter from Toynbee to Robert Darbishire of March 9 1913, published in the same volume as his correspondence with Columba Cary-Elwes, suggests that Toynbee was at least acquainted with him.

What follows comes from page images at Google Books, but I haven’t been able to read the rest to find out, from WHG Armytage, how close Stapledon’s examinations of future civilisations come to Toynbee’s of past and present ones. Stapledon seems to refer at one stage to an “Americanised world-state”, which fails “to discover fresh supplies of energy, which even in the Antarctic are becoming exhausted”. Armytage, who is described in various online pages as a eugenicist and published books on the history of education in England, refers to Last and First Men and A Story of the Near and Far Future as if they were separate books. I’ve corrected this.

Armytage in Yesterday’s Tomorrows: A Historical Survey of Future Societies, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968:

“‘When your writers romance of the future,’ writes one of the ‘last men’ in his Last and First Men (1930), ‘they too easily imagine a progress toward some kind of Utopia, in which beings like themselves live in unmitigated bliss among circumstances perfectly suited to a fixed human nature. I shall not describe any such paradise. Instead, I shall record huge fluctuations of joy and woe, the results of changes not only in man’s environment but in his fluid nature.’ The ‘huge fluctuations’, on Olaf Stapledon’s time-scale, cover 2,000 million years – nothing less than a history of man from his own time to the destruction of the solar system. In Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future (1930), Last Men in London (1932) and Star-Maker (1937), Stapledon carried Darwinian ideas far further than Wells. His method of dealing with the future was analogous to what Arnold Toynbee was currently doing for the past – envisaging the rise and fall of many civilisations – races and species even. Like Toynbee, Stapledon is concerned with unsuccessful attempts; like Marx, he was also concerned to show the dialectical reaction of one civilisation on another. Like Bernal he envisaged migrations from the earth to other planets, in Stapledon’s case first to Venus, then to Neptune, but having gone through mutations of the Bernal kind, his final eighteenth race, appearing millions of years from now, being recognisably human again.”

The Toynbee convector: Archives

October 14 2011

Not this blog’s archives: collections of papers relating to Toynbee. I’ve added a list in the About section on the left.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, New Bodleian, Oxford, completed 1940

Disadvantages of a classical education 2

July 28 2011

Disadvantages of a classical education

“[Toynbee] was an only son, obviously very talented, and he could not fail to know it: a doting mother and two admiring younger sisters saw to that. Throughout his life he depended on such support: ‘The absence of admiring females,’ says his biographer, ‘was a severe deprivation for him.’ Their adulation ensured self-satisfaction and a certain insensitivity to the opinions and feelings of others. These characteristics, originating in the family, were not corrected by his education; for he became the prize pupil, in succession, of the two most famous academic forcing-houses in England, Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford.

“The education provided there was the classical humanist education of the English governing class since the Renaissance. This education, whatever its value in the formation of character, had, by now, certain intellectual limitations. It was essentially literary. Not only did it exclude the study of science, it also stopped short of any serious understanding of its declared subject, the Greco-Roman world. The perfect pupil, on emerging from it, could read the Greek and Latin authors with ease, imitate their language with virtuosity, and absorb their ideals insofar as they could be made applicable to modern life. But his understanding of Antiquity would be limited to public events as represented by ancient writers and as interpreted in a modern context. Understanding of Antiquity in its own right, in its own context, as undertaken in the eighteenth century by Bentley and Gibbon, was no longer fashionable. It had been left to the Germans, whose immersion in such details was often regarded with condescension. The most famous Greek scholar in England, in Toynbee’s youth, was Gilbert Murray, who saw Euripides and Aristophanes as allies in his own battles for the liberal causes of Edwardian England. Toynbee, who won all the prizes at Winchester and Balliol, was naturally integrated into this tradition, and although he would afterward react against it, he would never escape from its limitations.”


“That training had been centered on two relatively short periods of Greek and Roman history: the two periods of greatest literary achievement. That meant, for Greece, the fifth century BC, the age of the great dramatists and Pericles, culminating in the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, as described by Thucydides, and, for Rome, the last century of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire, the age of Cicero and Lucretius, Horace and Virgil.”


Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Prophet, review of William H McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989, New York Review of Books, October 12 1989.

Rugby Chapel

May 19 2011

“Friends, who set forth at our side,
Falter, are lost in the storm.
We, we only are left! –
With frowning foreheads, with lips
Sternly compress’d, we strain on [...]
On, to the City of God.”


Matthew Arnold, from Rugby Chapel. Never, as far as I know, quoted by Toynbee, but it could be his epitaph.

Dover Beach

An Oxford Elegy

Balliol, Trinity Term 1914

April 20 2011

Click above on the name of the post if the image does not appear.

Balliol has placed some of its archives on Flickr. This is the diary of an undergraduate, a Classical Exhibitioner from Manchester Grammar School, in his third year of reading Greats in the summer term of 1914. (Use full-screen, not enlarged, mode.)

His name is Alfred Balmforth, born February 2 1892 and the son of WA Balmforth, editor of the Manchester Evening News. He came up to Balliol as a Classical Exhibitioner in 1911.

It was the last term of peace, but not Balmforth’s last, since Greats (Literae Humaniores, classics and philosophy) was and is a four-year course. The diary covers the whole term and runs from Friday April 24 to Monday June 22 1914. The following Sunday a nineteen year-old Bosnian Serb assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

At the beginning of the diary Balmforth sees CG Stone (1886-1976), Robert Gibson (died 1915) and Toynbee “about work for term”. Toynbee tells us in Experiences that Gibson was a junior fellow with him, while AD Lindsay (1879-1952) was the senior Greats don. He does not mention Stone. Balmforth does not mention Lindsay.

According to the Balliol archive, Balmforth’s tutors were Cyril Bailey (1871-1957), AW Pickard-Cambridge (1873-1952) and Arnold Toynbee. But Balmforth never mentions Bailey (unless I have missed a reference). He mentions “Picker” on a couple of occasions, but not as a teacher, and Toynbee often. Bailey had visited Winchester while Toynbee was still there and persuaded him to apply to Balliol, rather than New College, where most Wykehamists were expected to go.

The Master from 1907 to ’16 was James Leigh Strachan-Davidson (1843-1916). Lindsay was the next Master but one after him. AL Smith (1850-1924), about whom Toynbee writes in Experiences, held the office in between.

AD Lindsay had encouraged Toynbee to become a don and became his close friend, though the friendship ended when Toynbee, to Lindsay’s displeasure, resigned from his fellowship in December 1915. He had left in April that year to do war work in London.

Lindsay was socially progressive and, in McNeill’s words, “intent on disrupting the alliance of aristocracy and talent that Jowett had paintakingly created at Balliol”. His “version of Bergsonian evolutionary thinking helped to wean Toynbee away from his inherited Anglican faith”.


Balmforth’s reading: Mommsen, Boswell, Rosetti (Dante Gabriel), Descartes, Palgrave (presumably Francis), James Stephens, Zimmern, Plutarch, Xenophon, Aristotle, Hesiod, Sterne, How and Wells’ Commentary on Herodotus, Swift, Swinburne, Appian, John Morley, Aucassin and Nicolette, Richard de Bury, Sir Philip Sidney. You don’t have the impression that it weighs heavily on him or that he’s a swot.

Essays for Toynbee: Athenian constitutional history from Solon to 462, Spartan history to 550, Persia to 479, the Athenian Empire, Pericles’s policy from 443, the Boeotian constitution.

Lectures outside Balliol: inter alia John Cook Wilson (1849-1915), HH Joachim (1868-1938), Hastings Rashdall (1858-1924).

Sports: tennis and golf. He isn’t a hearty. Cricket as spectator. Punting. Eights Week: “Oxford full of sisters & cousins & aunts.”

Collections, discussions about life. Balmforth has an eye for landscape and flowers (“cowslips in many of the fields & ladysmock all along the hedges”), and an interest in music, though his taste is conservative (no time for Scriabin). He eats at the Cadena Café occasionally. Goes to a cinema. “Toynbee said my Greek History essays had been first class,” he tells us at the end. It isn’t clear what he wants to do after coming down. Perhaps the Bar. There isn’t much about his inner life – and nothing at all about romance, sex or drink – but the more we parse a text such as this, the more it lives and reveals its secrets. Several references to Indians (discrimination, not on the part of Balmforth sv May 4). The only hints of war are some OTC parades.

On the first page he introduces us to two of his closest friends, whom he will see often during the term. The Balliol archive identifies them as “Humphrey Marmaduke Chaplin, 1892-1915 (Balliol 1911)” and “Gordon Morley Hewart, 1893-1915 (Balliol 1912)”. And to Robert Gibson. On the blank left-hand page opposite, Balmforth has written:

“H.M. Chaplin
Lieut. 3rd (attached 2nd) Bn [ie Batallion] Cheshire Regt.
Killed in action in action in Flanders May 1915

Gordon M. Hewart
2nd Lieut. 6th Bn Lincolnshire Regt.
Killed in action at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, August 1915.

Robert Gibson
Capt 3rd (attached 2nd) Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
Killed in action in action in Flanders March 1915.”

He makes a similar note later on against a reference to an undergraduate called Rawsthorne.


Toynbee had read Greats at Balliol from 1907 to ’11. His scholarship was extended for a fifth year, to be spent abroad, as a result of his winning the Jenkins Prize. He chose to walk some 3,000 miles in Italy and Greece (mainly Greece). He returned as a junior don teaching Greek and Roman history in October 1912, as Balmforth was entering his second year. He was less than three years older than his pupil.

Letter of 1912, probably September 25, to his friend Robert Shelby Darbishire (1886-1949), whom he had met as an undergraduate, quoted in McNeill:

I am impatient to get started at Balliol and find out what the job really feels like. You were disillusioned about the dull men – cannot they be poked up? I will try while I am still enthusiastic, and not be cynical if I fail. … I suspect, though, that discharging large pouches of one’s mind for duty, which one has been so far rather painfully bottling up, is demoralising.

November 6:

I am rapidly becoming at home in the other camp, of those who live for ever and ever and whose life changeth not, instead of those who come and pass. Sometimes it comes into my head that I may be doing this identical job when I am 59. The don crew are very friendly, and there are fewer fossils embedded among them than I had expected. But why need they fare so sumptuously? … I shall get myself made junior bursar, and feed them on bread and water. I want to smash it and melt the College plate withal. The hole (sic) [my sic] business is piggish. … That is why I run.

Apparently November 6:

My job in teaching history is to make people know a different life and civilisation from ours, from the bottom and with different openings for good. … If I can get my men inside the Greeks, mentally (though that is Sandie’s [Lindsay’s] job), physically and morally – with the imagination of limestone and pines and blueness thrown in – I shall have done a good work.

But only three of his fifteen pupils seemed to have any real enthusiasm.

I expound too much. I pour out stuff, trying to kindle their minds and put a living picture into them. One ought to take up what they have actually written and worry about that. Overheard in the quad: “What do you think of Toynbee?” “Oh, I think he is good.” “There is one thing. He talks to you so much himself, that you don’t have to do any talking.” So I must change my tactics. But it is good work teaching. …  I don’t think I should become dried up and withered here. Meanwhile I shall get time enough to go on assimilating history, which is the driving force inside me now, as it has been for some years – nor do I see any signs of its abating. I want knowledge because I want it.

His published correspondence (1937-74) with Columba Cary-Elwes is prefaced by a few very intimate letters to Darbishire.

Darbishire was half-American and returned to Kentucky in 1910, though he was with Toynbee for at least part of his subsequent Greek odyssey. He became a teacher. It is clear that there are more letters to Darbishire in the Bodleian. What we have in the Columba book makes one wish that they could be published.

June 13 1913:

When I got out of bed on Tuesday morning, I suddenly looked ahead and saw I could not live in College for ever like Sligger [...]. So I determined I would become a thorough master of this job, get made junior dean, become a trained teacher, and get a grip of history, and then do work like my Father’s or something where human life and sorrow comes in. I wrote to Zimmern and told him he must help me get a footing in some such work within the next half-dozen years [...].

“Something where human life and sorrow comes in.”

Toynbee’s father, Harry Valpy Toynbee (1861-1941), had been a social worker in the Charity Organisation Society from 1881 to 1908, before entering a mental hospital (he never returned to normal life).

Lindsay wrote to Toynbee during the spring examination period of either 1913 or ’14: “I don’t yet know what is going to happen to all our papers in Greats, but you ought to know that their history shows an immense improvement this year, both Greek and Roman, and considering what a middling lot they are, you are to be congratulated.” Quoted in McNeill.


Toynbee’s uncle and namesake, Harry’s brother, the economic historian and social worker Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), had studied political economy at Balliol from 1875 and after his graduation in 1878 became a tutor there in charge of candidates for the Indian Civil Service. He was made Bursar in 1881 and died aged thirty. He was a friend of Benjamin Jowett, the Master from 1870 to ’93. His Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England: Public Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments, together with a Short Memoir by B. Jowett were published posthumously in 1884 and very widely read. Until at least 1934, when the first volume of A Study of History appeared, Arnold Toynbee meant him, not Arnold Joseph Toynbee.

Arnold Joseph Toynbee secured his first exemption from military service in October 1914 on the doubtful grounds of the dysentery that he had contracted more than two years earlier in Greece. Subsequent exemptions were on the grounds of his war work in London.

He left Balliol after Hilary Term 1915 to do that work, but retained his fellowship and its stipend until he resigned in December of that year (or until shortly afterwards). So his early Balliol years, to give them their widest bracket, were 1907-15. Later (in what year?) the college elected him to an honorary fellowship, which he held for life.

Toynbee left conventional academic life twice, the second time not voluntarily, when he was forced out of the Koraes chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine Language, Literature and History at King’s College, University of London in 1924 for having excessively pro-Turkish political views. His destination wasn’t charity work, but the British (from 1926 Royal) Institute of International Affairs, a half-way house between academia and public life.

He returned to Balliol during the Second World War. From the outbreak of war to June 1943 he was the head of the nearly 200-strong Foreign Research and Press Service, set up at his old college. The group – a redeployment of Chatham House – was required to provide accurate information on foreign affairs to any branch of the government on demand. He had done similar work during part of the previous war. In 1943 he returned to London to head a new Foreign Office Research Department which merged personnel from the Foreign Research and Press Service and the Foreign Office.


Balliol changed in Michaelmas Term 1914. Some of the older Fellows and a reduced student body carried on part of the academic life of the college. But Balliol’s premises, like those of most Oxford colleges, were largely given over to war work. Balliol hosted thousands of British and Commonwealth officer cadets on short training courses who were not members of Balliol or of the university.

The general war of 1914 overtook me expounding Thucydides to Balliol undergraduates reading for Literae Humaniores, and [...] suddenly my understanding was illuminated. The experience that we were having in our world now had been experienced by Thucydides in his world already. I was re-reading him now with a new perception – perceiving meanings in his words, and feelings behind his phrases, to which I had been insensible until I, in my turn, had run into that historical crisis that had inspired him to write his work. Thucydides, it now appeared, had been over this ground before. He and his generation had been ahead of me and mine in the stage of historical experience that we had respectively reached; in fact, his present had been my future. But this made nonsense of the chronological notation which registered my world as “modern” and Thucydides’ world as “ancient.” Whatever chronology might say, Thucydides’ world and my world had now proved to be philosophically contemporary. And, if this were the true relation between the Graeco-Roman and the Western civilizations, might not the relation between all the civilizations known to us turn out to be the same?

Crawley’s translation (1874):

“Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, beginning at the moment that it broke out, and believing that it would be a great war and more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it. This belief was not without its grounds. The preparations of both the combatants were in every department in the last state of perfection; and he could see the rest of the Hellenic race taking sides in the quarrel; those who delayed doing so at once having it in contemplation. Indeed this was the greatest movement yet known in history, not only of the Hellenes, but of a large part of the barbarian world – I had almost said of mankind. For though the events of remote antiquity, and even those that more immediately preceded the war, could not from lapse of time be clearly ascertained, yet the evidences which an inquiry carried as far back as was practicable leads me to trust, all point to the conclusion that there was nothing on a great scale, either in war or in other matters.”


Balmforth got a First in Classical Moderations, the first main exam, in 1913 and a Second in Lit Hum finals in 1915.

In July 1915 he joined the 8th Manchester Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant.

His 1914 summer diary is followed by a section, in the same notebook, called A week of the Army, Jan. 8th to Jan 15th 1916, No 7 Camp, Codford St Mary, Salisbury Plain. (What did he do between July 1915 and January 1916?) We get more than a week. It resumes on January 30 and continues until September 16.

Parades, inspections, route marches, reconnaissances. Codford was a training and transfer camp for tens of thousands of troops waiting to move to France, including many ANZAC troops. In 1916 it also became a depot for men who had been evacuated from the front line and were not fit to return.

In February-March he spends five weeks at the Staff College at Camberley. On April 9 he is relocated from Codford to Witley. He goes home to Manchester for Easter. He is still at Witley when the diary ends. At the many references to bad weather – “Tuesday, March 21. A day of almost continuous rain [...]” – our minds shift to Flanders.

But on Saturday July 1, the catastrophic first day of the Battle of the Somme, we get:

“Work on the Common in the morning – King still expected. Caught 2.30 from Godalming to Walton to stay with the Cowells. Tennis in the afternoon at Dr. Griffiths and a game of snooker in the evening at the Sangers’.”

On Sunday July 2:

“More tennis and pleasant lounging in the Garden. Returned to Camp at night.”

There is nothing afterwards to indicate what is happening.

In October 1916 he was sent to the front, attached to the 6th King’s Liverpool Regiment at Ypres. In April 1917 he became an Intelligence Officer and was made Captain. On July 31 1917 Alfred Balmforth was killed at St Julien, Ypres, “Wipers” to the British Tommy, aged twenty-five.


The “Sligger” whom Toynbee mentions as the typically college-bound academic in the passage I have quoted was the still-youthful Francis Fortescue Urquhart (1868-1934), the first Catholic fellow in Oxford since the Reformation. Until 1854, it had been necessary to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion in order to take a degree. After this bar was removed, Rome distrusted the Oxford Movement atmosphere sufficiently to issue a decree in 1867 forbidding Catholics to attend the university. This was not relaxed until 1895. Some Catholics came to Oxford despite the ban, including Urquhart. He remained at his school, Stonyhurst, to take an external London degree in Classics, and came up to Balliol as an exhibitioner for a second BA in modern history in 1890.

He lived in Balliol thereafter, holding office as junior dean (1896-1907), domestic bursar (1907-19) and dean (1918-34). Balliol online archive: “A conscientious but uninspiring tutor, his interests were more in art and architecture than literature or history, and he made no contributions of his own to historical scholarship. He took little part in university affairs except the development of the Oxford Catholic chaplaincy – he was instrumental in the appointment of his friend R. A. Knox as chaplain in 1926. Nevertheless, he became one of the best-known and most warmly remembered dons of his time. His main role, recalled L. E. Jones, ‘was social, not pedagogic … he appeared to have endless leisure for loitering in the Quad by day and gossiping in his rooms by night’.”

“The nickname Sligger, by which he was generally known after about 1892, was derived from ‘sleek one’ through ‘slicker’.” Over 700 photographs taken by (and occasionally of) Sligger are on Flickr. They have been placed there without any background or explanations; and why FF Urquhart Album 7? Many are obviously from the war years, but few are dated. A small selection is also on the Balliol Archives website. Some are very evocative. You want to know each of the subjects.

Peace and War by Sligger: not Balliol, but Merton from Christ Church Meadow; the Balliol archive at Flickr implies, but doesn’t state, a date of Michaelmas Term, 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission

The revelation of Thucydides

A private joke

The stuffy closet

An Oxford Elegy

William H McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989 (first four extracts)

Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948

The ox and the army

February 20 2011

The Greek retreat after the Second Battle of İnönü (March 26-31 1921) in the Greco-Turkish War. From January to September 1921 Toynbee was a war correspondent for the Manchester Guardian.

From the bank above the road I commanded a marvellous view of kindly Olympus, the plain and town of Ainegöl, and the Nazyf Pasha heights on the horizon, eight hours’ march away. I sat there watching the immense procession and looking out for the mule which was carrying my knapsack – I could identify him because he was also carrying two deal folding tables belonging to the divisional staff.

As I watched, one of two oxen yoked to a cart just below me lay down deliberately in the road, and the whole file of carts, guns, and lorries halted behind him for miles. It was a dramatic act on the part of the ox, for there, far away on the road zigzagging down into the plain from Nazyf Pasha, I could see the dust raised by the Turkish cavalry as they came down at last in pursuit. In some circumstances an ox may decide the fate of an army, but the driver of this ox was more than a match for him. After kicking and prodding the animal with no result whatever, he stooped down, picked up its tail, and, to my amazement, started carefully parting the hairs. Then, assuming a ferocious expression, he dug his teeth into the tail flesh. Perhaps this was an ultima ratio for dealing with oxen which had been handed down in the man’s family for generations. Anyhow it worked. The ox got up with alacrity and walked on, the whole column followed, and I myself was caught up in a motor-car, whirled away to see the progress of the 3rd Division, and finally deposited in a hotel at Brusa at two o’clock next morning, after a twenty-three hours’ day.

Passage written at Bursa (he calls it Brusa) on April 5. It appeared in the Manchester Guardian on May 12.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

Paradise Lost

February 17 2011

Paradise Lost, when I discovered it and devoured it in three days before I was eight years old, instilled into my mind, without my understanding it, my first idea of a theodicy.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

From Waterloo to Mons

January 8 2011

The Walloon towns of Waterloo and Mons are less than thirty miles away from each other.

Anyone in any country affected by the First World War who was alive and grown-up at the time of its outbreak is likely to have felt that this was an epoch-making event. Someone who was just grown-up, and whose country was England, will have been particularly sensitive to this feeling. Like his elders, he could look back, with a grown-up participant’s eyes, on the life of a period that had now been abruptly and unexpectedly brought to an end; and, for English people, this period had been running, without any dramatic break, for almost twice as long as for the people of most other countries. For the English, August 1914 spelled the sudden end of a period of peace that they had been enjoying by then for all but a hundred years, since the last shot fired at the Battle of Waterloo. The breaches in this English century of peace had been minor disturbances that had not interrupted the even tenor of England’s life. On the other hand, in most other parts of the World there had been a decisive break, for good or evil, about half-way through that century’s course. France had suffered the débâcle and the Commune in the years 1870-1. The same years had seen the completion of the political unification of Italy and of Germany. For Italy this revolutionary change had taken twelve years (1859-70) and for Germany eight (1864-71). Canada, too, had attained political unity in a self-governing federation in 1867. The United States’ unity had been preserved, but its internal balance of power had been at the same time revolutionized, in the Civil War of 1861-5, the greatest, bloodiest, and most devastating war of any in the World between 1815 and 1914. In Russia a new age had opened with the liberation of the serfs in 1861 and the accompanying reforms of other institutions. India had been through the shattering experience of the Mutiny of 1857, and China through the shattering experience of her war with Great Britain and France in 1858-60, which finally brought home to her a realization of her impotence in face of Western military power. These upheavals all round England had either left her untouched or had failed to touch her to the quick. And this exemption from the World’s common lot in the eighteen-sixties and seventies made the shock of 1914 particularly severe for her. Having been born in England in 1889, I felt this shock in its full force, and it must have been affecting my outlook and my work continuously and profoundly ever since.

The Meiji revolution in Japan (1867) should have been mentioned here.

“A” Company of the 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (9th Brigade, 3rd Division) on August 22, 1914, resting in the square at Mons, the day before the Battle of Mons. Shortly after this picture was taken the Company moved into position at Nimy on the bank of the Mons-Condé Canal.

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961